The Dream and a Shame

I was an observer: my own student
and my best teacher
in the forest working the lyrics together.
There were bees in his beard,
in a good way.

She cupped his chin: this
was platonic and also the source
of some honey. He fed her
two lines he had kept inside his soul
for years. I woke to write them and could

only remember alone.
He left and she
grabbed a banjo from a tree—
completed the song and bettered
it, besides. Something like “The Passionate Shepherd”

but blue, which the Impressionists
knew to put a touch of in every shadow.
Cut to: the sprung-open backs of a dozen watches.
Time was
busted; still

I didn’t fix the hands of clocks I could have moved.
The bells and cuckoo birds,
the dancing German ladies
with their aprons and their steins
shilly-shallied willy-nilly

throughout the day. And anyway,
I’ve learned naught if I haven’t learned not
to tell anyone when he or she
has appeared in a dream—
he or she never takes it the right way.

It does all sound unseemly, I admit—especially the horse, which I’ll get to.

Though I do want to ask—I guess
it’s less of a question, more of a comment—
if the song or the honey skips
a generation, the same as twins
or a quick temper?

Before the dream I was thinking of the horse
who bit the cowboy so you could see straight
through to his skull.
The horse that won’t be broken isn’t a romantic
story—it’s a shame and ends

with the horse hurting
a human then being put down.
Damned if I don’t worry that the horse is a mirror,
like the trainer says. Damned if I’m too afraid to push myself
out even so far as my own dream.

I only have two tools:
attention and inattention.

The rest—
just for show.

But credit where it’s due:
that banjo in the tree was a nice touch, subconscious,
a real lucky break.

Copyright © 2017 Lindsey D. Alexander. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.