The Improbable Coming True Suddenly

By Donna Steiner

What Cats Dream

Cats dream of fling, and of each other. Though light sleepers, their dreams have a complexity, and may have recurrent themes. Cats’ dreams are like collages, but are not surreal. They have special effects like slow motion, sophisticated nuances in lighting, and reverberant sound. Cats’ dreams can be multilingual, poetic, unclassifiable. Cats dream with their whole bodies and have a hundred words for “dream.” A hundred words, and still counting.

What Dogs Dream

Dogs dream of water but more often of men. Men’s feet and shins and crotches, men’s broad hands. Dogs dream that their men will leave them, or dream they are coming home. They dream in color but with the clarity of black and white. When they wake from a dream, dogs are confused, briefly, but shake it off, as though emerging from a bath. In less than a minute even the most lovely dream is forgotten, leaving open the very question as to what dogs dream.

What the Crow Dreams

The crow has vaudeville dreams. Unspeakably ambitious, the row dreams a series of dance moves, some involving props, and bawdy song and joke routines. Its costumes are flashy, on the edge of tastelessness, but the crow pulls it off. At the end of an evening of wild whistling and mad applause, the crow dreams of his rewards: a good cigar and a dame, and in the morning, upon waking, a brilliant in-the-road and only-for-you dime.

What the Starfish Dreams

The starfish dreams of cartwheeling to the moon. The starfish desires the “geographical cure”; love has wounded the starfish heart and no ocean can heal it. “I’d give my left arm,” the starfish says, but it will take more than that. It takes much more than that, so the starfish dreams arms regenerating forever, a ladder of arms to climb through to the sky.

What the Rooster Dreams

The rooster has nightmares. They are like something out of Tarantino, but the rooster fails to see the humor, having no understanding of what it means to “have an edge.” The rooster wakes before dawn—screaming, exultant, having survived another dark night of the rooster’s soul.

What the Moth Dreams

Of gazing on the desert from aloft, tethered, like a kit. How nice it would be, a relationship with a clean, white string. All the endearments one could utter, up in the cool air—my sweet cord, slender darling, my taut lovel one, angel who holds to earth…oh, the more of yourself you give to me, the higher I go.

What Geese Dream

Geese dream of gleaning the great cornfields of the northeast. Clouds so low they are pierceable. Geese dream of proportion and nuance, of the worlds between air and land, land and water, you and I, dream and not-dream.

What Skunks Dream

Their dreams are devotional. Skunks dream of altars and holy waters, of saints who bathe the feet of lepers. The captured skunk dreams of its cage resting on a bank of clean snow: empty, inviolate cathedral.

What the Giraffe Dreams

The giraffe dreams of dexterity, a whole boulevard of giraffes sitting in recliners or perched on stools playing twelve-string guitars. An Olympic-size swimming pool full of giraffes doing the butterfly. In the dream of the adolescent giraffe, all things exhibit their inherent awkwardness: the cello, the cellar steps, throw pillows, girl/girl sex. The giraffe is out there, but not alone.

What Turtles Dream

Turtles dream of great compositions. Like Joseph Cornell, turtles think daily, “I wish I had not been so reserved.” Turtles’ dreams are darkly lit, as though with votive candles, and have involved soundtracks. Song lyrics haunt them for days, or riffs they can’t place. They walk around muttering lines, and sometimes wake up peevish, but snap out of it.

What I Dream

I dream I am a hummingbird, a gem with wings, Little Stained Glass Window. My name in lights. I dream I am swimming upstream, salmon-like, and the effort is exhilarating. Incomprehensible, but exhilarating. I dream the taste of summer peaches. And the sweet dream, where I was the entertainment. It was a child’s birthday, a party, and I taught them to fly. I ran back and forth across a brilliant green lawn,over and over, saying Hey, it’s easy! You just pick up your feet, and glide.

What Dolphins Dream

Of inter-species sex. Dolphins dream of sliding, body of body; simultaneous slipping, oral-genital. We all love what glistens. How many shines can you name? Start outside, work your way in. Or start inside, go deeper.

What Doves Dream

Doves dream of the magic act called marriage. The disappearing act called happiness. Last night: of flying over an alley full of cats. Feathers floated down, the little mouths yawned open, swallowed them whole—while doves prayed choke.

What the Polar Bear Dreams

The polar bear’s a literalist. She dreams of cubs, yellow bulks, homage to her. She dreams of seal meat, seal eyes losing their luster, the exact delectable smell of seal, the precise sound of seal, five hundred yards to the east, five feet to the south of the surface. All dreams are of concealment and revelation. The wind whistles at the caverns of her ears as though to mimic the seals’ wet bleak quick death cries.

What the Duck Dreams

Landing on the smooth fluid surface; a sound like light, breaking.

What Rabbits Dream

Of leaping into the hat and staying put. Mating with a mottled brother. Dipping the ears into something dangerous—the tips, perhaps, into ink or blood.

What Bats Dream

Bats’ dreams are all about sex—coupling and uncoupling. Wings spread like wedding tents—umbrellas parasoled over the heads of pretty boys. The sound of wings, fast—lines of penmanship exploding in the sky—violent, stupefying, orgasmic.

What I Dream

I am practicing how to kiss. I don’t need to practice; I am good at it. But I practice on my arm, gently, and both my hands. I wonder, in my dream, why my lover is sad, and if a kiss will make him better. I plan the perfect cycle of kisses, determining the exact location, intensity and duration of each. I’m back east, rain is prolific, the season is changing. I want to continue practicing how to kiss, but in this dream I am distracted by the weather, and forget my responsibility. I hear a song: we’re afraid to call it love; let’s call it swimming. I dream of kissing my lover’s hand, white and tender, splayed like the underside of a starfish. When I awaken I continue to practice, for my waking-hour kisses are not as perfect—cannot yet live up to—the kisses in my dreams.

What Cows Dream

Cows dream of grasses and speed. Though perceived as lazy, they have active interior lives, as evidenced by the sadness in their eyes. Grazing can become burdensome, less a pleasure than an obligation, yet—the dream of the perfect field. Overgrown sweet grass, canopies of shad trees, birdsong from a distance. The faint, faint smell of a clear stream. Bees but no flies, and a breeze that cools the flanks. Cows dream of a mild wind that sends pangs through the high grass, like pangs of regret in the heart of the cow who dreams of a horse, a horse at a gallop in an adjacent field. The pang that defines the cows’ dream of never-knowing.

What Horses Dream

Horses dream of massage and the sky. Their dreams are strenuous and brief, like a well-run quarter mile. Or sensuous—the dream of forelimbs and haunches kneaded by hands, human or otherwise. They dream of swimming and wake startled, ashamed. They dream of racing without obstacle, as though in the sky. But upon waking horses believe unreservedly that being earthbound is a blessing.

What the Crab Dreams

how has it come to this? how has it come to this?

What the Cedar Waxwing and the Scarlet Tanager and the Vermilion Flycatcher and the Baltimore Oriole Dream

They dream of being long-winded, eternal, iconic. They dream of a day when color doesn’t matter. They dream of being larger than life and flying through the eye of the needle, twice. The cedar waxwing and the scarlet tanager and the vermilion flycatcher and the Baltimore oriole dream that when they awaken our lives will be as lovely as the lives in our dreams.

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