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brian antoni: escapology

A Book of Dreams by ELISA ALBO

I'm trapped in a beige hallway lined with
white doors, knocking and pounding on
mine, a brass ring in my hand, but no key
will enter my lock, and then I see them--
two lovers celebrating with feather kisses
each other's lips chins eyelids outside
their flat that can't contain them, inside
the building that imprisons, the city, the life.
I am washing a large picture window in Prague
with newspaper, vinegar, the sweep of my
sleeve, sloshing and forming flat dirty clouds.
I wipe the suds straightaway until the glass
is no longer mirror, no longer wall, nothing
but pane separating the space between feeling
and no feeling, clarity a swan could float
through if that grace were ours for a moment
I am a gullible victim charmed by several
Spanish waiters who follow me down
a mountain road on our way to a party,
force me to pull over, open my trunk to steal
my belongings. I punch the accelerator
until I reach my house on which they descend
like a flock of blackbirds--opening drawers,
touching vases, breathing down my lamps.
I run to the kitchen to call 911 on the wall-
mounted phone but the dial is a large over-
ripe peach that dissolves into juice as I scrape
'round the numbers, hoping I can get through.
I am riding a rickety bike along a wharf
in a northern town, my legs stiff, the bike
shaky but I'm finding my rhythm, wind and
open spaces, exhilaration on my face, other
riders and pedestrians, everyone going
somewhere. I must have reached my
destination for I wake up on a high bed,
a faceless husband beside me, two small
wolves like energetic pups trying to get
into bed with us. A wolf jumps up and
I'm frightened so my husband throws him
a raw steak which he grabs with pleasure,
smearing the sheets with blood.
I'm in an overly lit supermarket with my father,
buying ingredients for four cakes, carefully
choosing and placing them in my cart--slim
bottles of lime juice, flour, sugar, baking soda,
salt. My cart, orderly--not full--contains everything
I need but my father keeps asking, are you
certain? I reassure him though somewhere
inside something is missing. I head for
the checkout line, leave the cart with two
colleagues and secure a place, leaving
my father to hold it but when I go get my cart,
it has vanished. Without warning, I'm lying
on a bed with a large, dark, excruciatingly
tender bruise on my side--I can't recall how
I got it but my colleagues assure me that
my guests can RSVP though E-mail which
confuses me since I'm not nor have I ever
been electronically connected, my only phone
attached to a line at home where everyone
can respond s'il vous plait while I tend
to my bruise and bake sweet orange cakes.
I'm descending the whitewashed steps of an Italian
villa, damp cave-like corridors with walls of chalk
as if awaiting drawings. My muslim dress brushes
the steps and I'm laughing as I skip down, smooth
stone cool under my bare feet--not even a warm
embrace could stop this journey to the ground floor
where I find a room with enough paint and canvas
to paint my way out of this scene, out onto the water
where a barge awaits, incessant angelic sirens
serenading me to jagged rocks jutting from the sea.
I'm running through carefully kept front yards
with my parents and their well-dressed friends,
laughing, joking, having come from a sit-down
dinner where a vaguely familiar guest suddenly
burst into an aria I recognized with nostalgia
as one my father used to play in the family room
afternoons I crossed with indifference, before
I knew anything. I stumble across several
aluminum lunch wagons selling clear plastic bags
bulging with overripe tomatoes, bell and chile
peppers, onions, zucchini. A woman holds up
a bag nearly bursting with spotted tomatoes,
says she'll use them to make spaghetti sauce
and the way she says spaghetti in an Italian
dialect sounds like asparagus in Spanish but
everyone understands, everyone buys, feet sore
from traversing grassy lawns in heels, from
the effort to keep from sinking fully into damp
soil, of holding themselves carefully atop the earth.

fin