I dreamt I lived in a narrow house in Queens
With a kitchen window facing a narrow driveway
And, across it, the neighbor’s kitchen window.
Through it I was surprised to see my father,
Moving casually around the room
As he conversed with someone I couldn’t see.
He lived there now: that was what I gathered.
It made no sense, although it gave me comfort
To know that he was safe, and so very near.
And yet, although I stood there at the window
Looking at him and calling “Daddy! Daddy!”
Over and over, he never turned my way.
I drank from a water bowl, then saw that it
Was full of dead goldfish and goldfish shit.
Picture it: a flowing, characterless
Suite of high-ceilinged rooms, everything spare
And white, with long white curtains everywhere,
Doorways broad as a stage, without a door
In sight, and everywhere a warm white light
Suffusing all. We were staying indefinitely
With several men, all friends of yours, I guess,
And all of them young, a veritable corps
Of angels, who wandered the rooms, and lay about
On ample white divans (sometimes in pairs),
And chatted idly while loud music played.
I was lying, listless, on one such divan
When suddenly I heard my father’s voice
From God knows where: “Bruce, turn down that noise!”
I ran to the window. There! I saw his back
Far away, on a path that led across
A lawn to the farthest building in the quad.
I followed; entered a lobby; joined a queue.
Setting my backpack down – it held, I knew,
My cash and passport – I passed the time with two
Black church ladies. When it came my turn
To use the information telephone,
A voice told me I had to speak Chinese.
I railed at the counterman: “This is absurd!
Don’t you have some record of who’s here?”
“Yes,” he said. “But this place is big! There’s a hell
Of a lot of names.” He nodded toward a grand
Red-covered tome on a huge library stand.
Next thing I knew, my sister was present, standing
Beside me, in an adjoining room. My hand
Reached for the book; then, suddenly, a man
Sitting along a wall at a high clerk’s desk
I’d dented. Me? I shook my head and mused:
Had it been my dad? The clerk produced
A card – my name, but a stranger’s signature.
“How old was he?” I asked. “Fifty,” he guessed.
“Do I look fifty?” He stared at me awhile.
“No.” “I hope not,” I said. He didn’t smile.
I left the room, and passed him on the landing –
My father, I mean. He fixed me with a glare,
Then turned away and went on up the stair.
I dreamed this morning we lived in Madrid, apart.
I had to leave my flat; together we went
To another Spanish city, where your parents
Lived in an old stone house in the city’s heart.
Your father said that I could stay a week.
How sweet it was, at last, to live with you!
We strolled around the city, just us two,
On broad sidewalks shaded by tall trees.
I tried to order in Spanish in a café
But it kept coming out Norwegian. I had to force
It, word by word. “Jeg – yo. Er — soy. Fra – de.
Norge.” The waiter shook his head, of course.
I repeated it: “Norge.” Then “Norvège.” That
Didn’t work either. Then I remembered: “Noruega.”
He brightened, nodded. “Yo soy de Noruega.”
The three of us laughed. But one thing I didn’t
Understand: why had I left Madrid?
And exactly what had happened to my flat?
I can’t think of her name. I rack my mind.
Finally I say, “It’s Murphy Brown.”
“Candice Bergen,” he snaps. I snap awake
And realize I’ve made a strange mistake:
Because the Me who experienced the dream
Couldn’t remember Candice Bergen’s name,
I thought I didn’t know it. I was wrong:
The Me who was dreaming knew it all along.
We were heading eastward, you and I,
With my family, on a forest road,
In Washington State, near the Canadian line.
In the back seat, tree-shielded from the sky,
You and I held hands, not talking much.
The night embraced us like a comforter;
Canada was close enough to touch.
My father drove the car. Sitting behind him,
I perused the map, my finger tracing
The many routes that led directly north
Through Canada – long lines that narrowed, and grew
Fewer in number, until there remained just one,
A thin red line that braved the empty space.
At last, in wilderness, that line ended too.
Then, suddenly, the car was weaving, racing.
“Slow down!” I told my father. No response.
I yelled it again. He didn’t say a thing.
What was going on? It made no sense.
Leaning forward, I grabbed hold of the wheel
And steered from the back seat. Up in the front,
My sister leaned over, trying to reach the pedals.
Then lights behind us: an approaching car.
A moment later, it was at our side.
POLITI was printed on its door.
Two cops looked over while I held my breath.
They studied our dilemma, staying abreast
Of us, unsmiling, grim. Then they drove on.
Their taillights disappeared into the dark.
Our drama continued . . . and the sense of peril.
I don’t know how – the car under control.
I looked over at my sister, sitting beside me.
My father was gone.