In the dream

in color but colorless,
post-apocalyptic, the world stretches out
with ash and charred hulks of trees.
I am alone. Beside me the world has cracked
like an egg, jagged and stretching over the horizon,
only a foot wide, but an abyss.
There is a whisper of steam coming from it,
and a whisper of something churning below.
That is the only sound except for a bird calling, maybe
for a mate.  I need to get to the other side,
but I am terrified. I can step across easily —
only a foot wide — but I remember a time I tried to jump
a puddle in a long straight skirt.  My leg would go no farther
than the skirt’s width, and I landed in the water in new shoes.
What if I can’t reach across?  The dream won’t leave.
I think of it whenever my mind is alone.

– Sarah Russell
Artist: frankmoth portfolio
For Real Toads “dream” prompt
and for Poets United Poetry Pantry

54 thoughts on “In the dream

  1. The logic of the dream here is simple yet devilish — step on a crack — and the adult mind is haunted by that early game (as well as the challenge of leaping a puddle, once). Of course, dreams are never simple, and there are many layers of culture and time here. The image is a perfect fit. Side note, interesting you mention that the dream is colorless — that is a binary in dreams, and I understand most women dream in color, but not always, and most me dream without color, though not always.

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    1. Thanks for the interpretation, Brendan. I’ve done some dream work, but this one had me stumped. I didn’t know about dreams in color vs. black and white. Interesting. And yes, I usually dream in color. And this dream was in color. It just was in grays and browns.

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  2. This is beautifully evocative. I wonder if part of this dream surfaces from inhibitions in real life. Perhaps the brain is encouraging us to conquer our fears and take a leap of faith. 💜

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    1. Ah, Kris, you remember those pencil skirts of the ‘60s too. They were darned inconvenient where puddles were concerned, especially if they didn’t have a kick pleat. And WOW, I haven’t thought of the term “kick pleat” in 50 years!

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      1. Those skirts slightly came back in the 80’s. :o)
        I didn’t know that was what that little pleat was called!!! This is the second thing I’ve learned today. (I learned the word eyot. Pronounced 8. Means a small island.) I’m sure I’d need a kick pleat in my skirt to reach the eyot from the boat..although, why would I be in a boat in a skirt that tight?????

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  3. Oh I hate those dreams that won’t leave! It’s funny how dreams and memories can intersect and you incorporate an actual memory into a dream, or else you have a dream that has a whole history and set of memories included, but you wake to realize that none of it was real.

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    1. Yes, I think they do. I remember having a vicious dream as a child that recurred no matter how hard I tried to make it go away. I can’t remember when I last dreamed it. Hope it doesn’t come back now that I’ve started thinking about it again!

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  4. Your sepia dream is atmospheric, Sarah, and somehow familiar. I love the lines:
    ‘I am alone. Beside me the world has cracked
    like an egg, jagged and stretching over the horizon’
    and the comparison of trying to leap the abyss with jumping a puddle in a long straight skirt, and landing in the water in new shoes, which emphasises the surrealism and absurdity of dreams.

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  5. Oh, this dream is all too real in how it portrays the human condition – the fear of being alone or the anxiety to find a way through a hurdle. I like how that scenario plays out in this verse, with the skirt’s width, et al.
    Well-penned. 🙂
    -HA

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    1. Thanks, HA. Yes, I think it is a rather universal dream — fear of failure, taking a leap of faith, the search for a mate. This one had it all! Maybe that’s why it stayed with me so long.

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  6. What a frightening dream. I used to have a very frightening repetitive dream. Someone told me that I should get INSIDE the dream, live through it, and bring it to a POSITIVE conclusion. I did this, really FELT the scary dream, and came out safely on the other side – having made my own positive ending. I rendered the dream powerless to haunt me after that.

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  7. Wonderful descriptions here. I would think that this is about fear of taking the next step. Hitch up that skirt and take a leap of faith… is my answer to this. Enjoyed your write😊

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    1. I think the apocalyptic landscape served 2 functions. It brought the “task” of leaping across into high relief, and it suggested what the future would be if I didn’t attempt the leap. And yes, scary!

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  8. So enjoyed this! A small thing but you created a whole poem around a puddle and a miscalculated jump. Love it. Great metaphor for life as well… what we try and what we don’t…

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  9. your poem of a dream is so vivid, the imagery so detailed and taut.
    i think i can understand why you wrote this, some dreams do haunt us for a while. i once wrote a poem about a dream i had, a grey colorless landscape in which a lonely figure was walking over what looks like embers. i thought it was an image of hell and it stayed with me for weeks. 🙂

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  10. When I remember a visual image from a dream, it’s almost always in full color. Sometimes the color is gray or brown. (Often it’s similar to a color or colors actually in the room, and often dream images also relate to images in the room–as in a dream of decorating a cake that looks remarkably like the real lampshade, etc.)

    I often dream in black-and-white–words, on a page or screen! (I often dream about blogging.)

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    1. How fascinating that you dream words. I have never done that. I often dream in color, and those are the dreams I remember most vividly, but somehow they never match the room I’m in. At least I don’t think they do. I’ll have to try to remember and compare!

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      1. When I was in the Marine Corps, I almost got in a bit of trouble for cutting my hair too short (it made it easier for training and such) and refusing to wear a skirt during an event. I was the only woman. All the guys were wearing formal uniform. When I showed up in trousers, too, and with the same sort of shoes the guys were wearing, I was asked to changed–to put on a skirt, stockings, and pumps. I refused, and you can imagine the nightmare after that.

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  11. “What if…?” Those two little words keep more people from doing great things than any other words I know. On the other hand, they are an invitation to dream of great possibilities. So which will it be?

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  12. I don’t pretend to understand dreams Sarah although dearly wish I could interpret a persistent dream (across years) of my own. It is an unsettling dream, as is yours.
    I don’t know, but maybe the new shoes are relevant as why you can’t move forward, escape. But as said, I don’t understand my own dream(s) so anything I offer is a shot in the dark.
    Anna :o]

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    1. Thanks, Anna. Sometimes I can figure out exactly what a dream is telling me — how it is “collating” the day I’ve had. Other times, it’s a complete mystery. This dream was awhile ago, so I can’t tell you what the shoes stood for. But it was so strong at the time that I had to write about it.

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  13. This is very vivid and has that feel of the dream that is a bit absurd–in the sense of things that are not dangerous feeling very dangerous and things that are dangerous more commonplace. Thanks, Sarah. k.

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    1. That’s a great insight! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right. It was extremely eerie at the time, and I carried it around for several days, so it must have been playing havoc with my subconscious, even though as you said, the absurdity of it could be dismissed logically.

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