dream notes

Dreamed of a man who paints with fire. I watch as he crouches by his canvas, his brush luring flame from the ground itself. Each short, rapid stroke, each gesture conjuring fire that burns there, in the patterns he makes –

From the scraps you leave, I am to make a meal. Scant harvest: the crescent moon of your fingernail, a shard of collarbone, the trimmings from your beard.

The painting man touches his brush to tree branch. The tree branch explodes into flame. To wooden park bench. I watch until the planks buckle. To trash can. To the row of posters nailed to boards: Have you seen this cat

Charred paper drifts skyward and floats like snow.

We meet the ghosts of our past selves in line at the post office, or emerging from the hotel lobby to the piercing cold. They tell us: We have been waiting for you.

Even snow drifts hold the imprint of our child bodies – the way we sprawled there, invoking angels.

I gather you up. Press you into my palms. With my hands, I knead a bitter paste.

When we return to the haunted corridors of youth, who do we meet there? The kindly woman whose hands smelled like lavender when she smoothed the hair back from our faces. Or the one who poured tea. Or the man who carved foxes from dense soap. Who are we when we leave? Older. Hearts stretched taut. Conduits of fire.