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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019
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Charles D. Tarlton
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA


Akumu No Nikki: Fragments from a Dream Diary

起死回生
(“Wake from death and return to life.”)

1

I am writing this diary in a large red faux-leather-bound notebook that has the words "That Sunday" carefully hand-lettered on the cover while inside, on each page, a perpendicular red line creates a left margin crossing the horizontal blue ones. No dates appear anywhere, and each time I open the journal to continue my diary, whatever I had written before is no longer there. Everything wants to happen on the same unspecified date and page.

I heard this poem in my head.

it must be a dream
all this happening at once
what if I wake up
and the words and pictures are
gone. How will I remember?

But someone else was singing a song at the same time.

all this must be true
just smell the pines and roses
listen to the birds
singing high up and sweetly
in the pink Magnolia tree

We were just leaving the church (I believe there was a wedding and not a funeral at all) but we couldn't find our car. We walked all around the neighborhood though we only succeeded in getting lost.

each street looked the same
all the houses were white brick
all the roofs were black
with the same sidewalks and grass
each under its own streetlight

2

The roads in rough sameness rolled underfoot as if we were walking on a treadmill or down the up escalator. We walked for a long time but arrived nowhere, as it sometimes happens in dreams, when suddenly the railroad tracks appeared, grass growing between the ties, the rails rusted from disuse. The urge to get someplace was overwhelming.

A little girl wrote this.

my tiny dog was lost
somewhere near the old station
he's a funny black
dog with an awkward walk, his
rear end swings toward the front

And everyone stopped there for a moment and smiled at the little girl. But, no one had seen her little lost dog.

In a gradual way, the wood, steel, and green grass of the railroad tracks changed into a street in the downtown of a dark city. Platforms like the loading docks at a warehouse ran down the middle of the main street and the cars worked their way loudly around them.

An older man, a priest, sitting on a platform in the center of the flow, stood up and recited this poem.

in French cities
road signs report the distance
to the Centre
which they determine to be
the doors of the cathedral

3

A large rough-looking policeman came and sat by the priest in a wicker chair on the raised platform and watched the traffic, regulating it, to all appearances, with just the changing expressions on his face—these ran from disgust, contempt, sarcasm, to surprise—and the cars sped up, slowed down, turned, or stopped in response.

does anyone know
how common being alone
is? How uncertain
your gestures become, how strange
everyone now looks?

Then a foppish student with a blue velvet jacket, fancy cuffs, and waves in his hair responded to my question (I’d asked him if he knew where this place was) with a question of his own. "Has your hair been blow-dried?" He sneered. I saw myself in the mirror, then, with a full head of blond hair, short cropped and styled.

The bored student read out this poem.

when there's nothing left
but questions that no one can
answer, one waits
as best one can, fighting back
ennui with a pretense of style

I knew then that I was, in some pure sense of the word, hopelessly lost, so I wrote out one more poem right at that moment.

wanting to wake
from a dream-filled sleep without
knowing you sleep
you jab at the nothingness
toss around in milky mists

. . . but on reflection I just threw it away.

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