Skaidrite Stelzer

Jay The jay insistent outside the window arouses piles of laundry, the dirty dishes cracked. The apartment floats past roaches humming their wings like Kafka. Some gray, others striped with yellow. The insistent children grow older but refuse to dress themselves or take out the garbage. They are jealous of life, want to keep it all, hoarding the smells that drove Swift mad. Japanese cherry and space shuttle bloom together. This, outside. Dirty clothes define their own time. Fold up the angles of sun. Losing the Key The dervishes whirl in Golden Gate Park among the rhododendrons where we stroll bare-breasted, intent on practiced patterns-- frangipani scent among saffron-- wrapped in the first glance of sunrise. The cops too tired to arrest us, look instead for draft-dodgers or those who would call them pigs. “Eat two almonds a day”— Edgar Casey’s advice. The Sleeping Prophet, I’ve read that book, so I try it, with the consistent brown rice and tamari sauce, and purple grapes sweet with seeds. Richard Brautigan walking down the street, me thinking of reasons to cross over, to be near him-- his book of sketches and poems, drug-spotted words with the luster of aftertaste. That soft overindulgence, wasted syllables. Who could think then that no anthologies would feature him? Out bodies painted with glow-in-the-dark colors, we wanted to try it all, in the land that offered so little beyond the salesman and the secretary. Give me a taste. In my dream I fumble for the key. The strange hotel room. She is sleeping there already, young still and ready. When I wake her I know she’ll be pissed. The Mental Institute The round brick tower, background to a university where I learned Chinese calligraphy. “The dog in the house,” a simple pictograph meaning something else. The instructor tells us these are not words and sentences exactly. But meaning comes, so one night we search for his party by smell alone-- the savor of Chinese cooking. We find the right apartment. It is our first time. I’m sure there is rice, perhaps chow mein, nothing too exotic. It is the sixties. For us all is new. The Pakistani boyfriend, his name now gone, tells our fortunes, saying, “One of you will die young.” But we haven’t. And the tower, I learn, once held Malcolm X’s mother. Perhaps even then, as I walked past, she contracted there from the crime of poverty. But a young man did come out with long knives, who thought he would marry me until he saw ghosts near my parents’ bomb-shelter, just where I thought they would be. In my dreams that tower is unreachable-- the place where the past is erased. Skaidrite Stelzer lives in Toledo, Ohio. She is interested in connections between dream worlds and waking life. Her work has appeared in many literary journals including The Baltimore Review, Glass, and Struggle.