Friday, October 8, 2010

To Styx

If someone saves your life
Before the pills take effect,
Expect to be jerked from bed
And sent into an ambulance.
It is helpful to remember
Your social security number
And your death wish,
As the emergency technicians
Inquire about both.
So be warned that
A bottle or two of pills
Doesn't necessarily bring death,
Even if you eat them with a cup of poppy tea.

You're an opium addict, my father says. I agree with him. I sleep in the poppies, I say, and my bed unfolds in the morning.

On this side of the river is Limbo.
On the other side is death.

My cousin brings me to a strange land with a collar around my neck meant for horses. I don't know if horses wear collars. I always thought they wore harnesses. But in this dream, I wear a decorative collar meant for a special horse, white lace with a black pendant in the center.

I model the collar for my family. It doesn't flatter you because it's meant for horses, says my mother. My father has changed his name from Ken to Mike. He says, I kept two letters the same. I wouldn't recognize him except for his insistence that my thighs are fat. I don't stay with my family. Along the way to the hotel, my cousin tosses basketsful of flowers in front of me.

Between Limbo and the Stygian shore
I blossom into my thighs.

This land doesn't exist on any map. The closest approximation in literary terms is Israel, but the glyph of a name that represents it preceded Israel's formation by millennia. At one time it was possible to get there through the River Styx. Then the underworld became an unfashionable destination for travelers, and ambulances would come to round them up before they entered the water. At first the emergency technicians met with resistance from the travelers, but, after they saw that nothing could be done to stop the workers, they no longer put up a fight.

The Stygian shore remains closed to travelers,
But the strange land on the other side welcomes
Those who cross the river
Despite the discouraging sign that says all saved.

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