[I had a dream last night]

Brandon Shimoda
Getty Images
I had a dream last night that a rainbow was burning.

I had a dream last night that the war fit on the tip of a finger.

I had a dream last night that a scream did not need a hill to gather speed to reach the people.

I had a dream last night that a border wall was built. Carved into the wall were millions of alcoves. In the center of each was a bright red candied apple. The wall was a mausoleum—part altar, part orchard.

I had a dream last night that I met a woman made of bricks. She took herself apart, brick by brick, and became a pile of bricks.

I had a dream last night that my teacher was sitting on the edge of the roof of an old building. She had just given us our final exam, which was to speak extemporaneously for ten minutes on a single subject, any subject. I went last. I closed my eyes, and said: Someday the earth will become the moon—beaten, abusedextinguishedand yet indispensably radiant to some other life. Then I stopped. I looked around the room. My classmates were frowning. Then the teacher opened the window.

I had a dream last night that I taught writing to young children on a farm, rolling hills, animals grazing, outbuildings spread acres apart. Day one: I was an hour late because I was trying to make a small book of poems to give to my students, but was not able to achieve more than a disheveled stack of paper. Sorry I’m late, I said, I was trying to make a book for you. The students were in their seats. I showed them the stack. The paper curled then crackled as if burning. The first book I made, maybe also the last. The classroom was in a small shed with a mossy roof and sawdust on the floor. Ropes hung from a winch mounted on the ceiling. One boy with alert, worried eyes reminded me of a salamander I had seen, years ago, in forsythia.

I had a dream last night that while walking in the woods I came upon a steep hill covered in tree stumps on which children were doing military exercises. One of the children climbed on a stump, pointed at the sun—an eye, with one black spot—and shouted, five billion years!

I had a dream last night that I went to a rock opera performed by teenagers. They sang so softly, and the speakers were turned down so low, that nothing could be heard, so the rock opera had to be interpreted by the looks on the teenagers’ faces.

I had a dream last night that I was watching a River Phoenix biopic starring a young Yo-Yo Ma (circa early 1980s).

I had a dream last night that I arranged, after dark, in an empty field, four video projectors facing each other in a square. Each projector played a different movie. When I turned them on, the combined throws of their light created a perfect cube composed of all four movies.

I had a dream last night that I was watching a movie that was an eight-hour shot of a young woman pulling long black hair out of the drain of her bathroom sink.

I had a dream last night that I was walking down a narrow street in Beirut. The street was wet, had been hosed down, and was in partial shade. I was not aware of any men, only groups of women. Hanging colors.

I had a dream last night that I hesitated before diving into a pond.

I had a dream last night that I visited a scientist in his home. He opened the door then disappeared. I was left to discover my way through his house. I opened a door onto a dark swimming pool. There were many colorful fish. I dived in, swam below the roots of the house—down through the fish until the fish were all gone. The water above was black, with intermittent vagrancies of dull, trailing light. Below me were rocks, massive rocks. In the crevices were thin threads of coral.

I had a dream last night that I was launched, without parachute, straight into the sky, where I rose above the clouds. At the point where my momentum slowed and it seemed certain I was going to fall back to earth, a ledge appeared. I put my hands on the ledge and pulled myself up. There was, on the ledge, an arrangement of noodles. I was ecstatic: I was not going to starve in the sky! But I also knew that I was not going to return to earth. Noodles were my only consolation. Suddenly, no amount of sky was enough. I was choking. Earth looked, from the ledge, like a fragment of coral broken off a reef. Not only was I not going to return, there would be no reason. Everyone I knew and loved was already dead, by virtue of the fate of endless sky, of having been born, of choking on a coral fragment, and getting used to it.

I had a dream last night that an island folded in half. I called an old woman on the phone. You know the island you love? I said. It folded in half. The line went silent. I took my glasses off, placed them on a rock, slid into the water. The folded island was covered in small orange flowers. Monkeyflowers. Two utility poles had fallen over. The power lines were inches from the water. I am going to be electrocuted, I thought, and the moment I thought it, the sun set. I did not have my glasses, my night vision is terrible, only the power lines and the monkeyflowers were visible. I panicked and started swimming toward the rock where I put my glasses, but I could not find it, because I could not see it. The veins in my body were lightning.

I had a dream last night that I was floating, face up, like a corpse in a coffin (minus the coffin), down a long, low-ceilinged hallway, at the far end of which was a large doorway that opened onto a bright green forest filled with dozens of young, round-headed deer, all of them lying on each other, asleep.

I had a dream last night that death was not called death, it was called expectoration. Upon expectoration, a mask—hard, made of something like wood—grows over our face, our face turns to liquid, the liquid cascades down our body.

I had a dream last night that lispectorate was a word. A verb meaning cough up or spit out—phlegm, sarcasm, laughter, disdain—in the manner of Clarice Lispector.

I had a dream last night that a man gave a performance in which he visibly aged. When the performance began, he was young. By the end, he was old. The stage was large. The space for the audience was small, no seats. The man walked to the foot of the stage and said, in a low voice, My house.

Brandon Shimoda is the author of The Grave on the Wall, which received the PEN Open Book Award, and Hydra Medusa. His next book is on the afterlife of Japanese American incarceration.
Originally published:
June 5, 2023


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