The Benefit of Dreaming
I hope this is a dream. My brother is cutting wood in the yard
at his old farmhouse, the one he sold after his divorce
20 years ago, and the power saw he's holding slides
along the branch, slits his jeans, bores into the white flesh
of his thigh in the time it takes him to gasp.
He stands and we all stare at the color sinking
out of his ruddy face, collecting somewhere in his body
and appearing all at once at the tear in his pants,
welling up in a long line before he drops
to one knee, shaking.
But isn't this real? Don't two
or three of us spend the whole afternoon and evening
at the ER in Lancaster, watching farmers with severed digits
and old men with heart attacks carried into the inner
sanctum? Don't we wait and wait and wait, my brother holding
his leg together, lowering his head now and then to avoid fainting,
until finally they sew the tendon end-to-end and we all go home?
In another dream or memory, my brother and I sit on dirty
orange shag carpet in his living room – no furniture –
no food in the fridge – nothing but beer. We lean
against the wall of this last chance apartment and both of us
are crying. We look to be in our twenties, yet already each
of us has failed at something we really wanted: law school,
marriage. At least we are a little drunk.
If there is some important secret our parents
forgot to impart, some family curse we are swiEeing in,
at least for tonight we are swiEeing in it together.
This is the benefit of dreaming.
Doesn't he call to tell me
from 3000 miles away that though we thought things could never
get worse, though in fact things got a lot better and stayed that way
for years and years, now they are decidedly collapsing around him.
He has lost all his money; his wife, the very bloom of his heart,
is leaving him and taking the little boys whose growth sustains him;
and he has just come from the hospital where they looked grave,
murmured insulin, needles, blood pressure,
pills, ulcers, pain. And then he saw that
for all of this he cannot pay.
In this dream I tell him
that I too am waiting, listening to the word lymphoma repeat
itself again and again in the discordant music of my nights. And though
we don't cry, holding our phones, looking out on opposite oceans,
we confess how we do weep suddenly in our car or shower,
how this breaking is a small and puzzling comfort.