In the Dream
I was alone in a dyke bar we’d traversed before
or maybe it was in a way all our dives
merging together suddenly as one intergalactic composite,
one glitter-spritzed black hole,
one cue stick burnished down to a soft blue nub.
Picture an open cluster of stars
managing to forever stabilize in space
without a landlord scheming to shut the place down.
Anyways, I was searching for someone there
whom we hadn’t seen in years—in what
could have been Sisters, Babes, the Lex, the Pint,
the Palms, or the E Room? but the room
had no end and no ceiling.
Though I could see all of our friends or exes
with elbows up or fingers interlocked
on table tops zinging with boomerangs.
Maybe the tables were spinning, too. I can’t be sure.
But just as a trap that trips before
hammering a mouse is not humane
the dream changed—or the alarm
that I carry in my breast pocket in my waking life
was sounding. Because in the dream,
three people on bar stools, who were straight
or closeted? but more importantly angry
turned and the room dwindled
like a sweater full of moths eating holes
through wool. Or they were humans, sure,
but not here to love
with jawlines set to throw epithets like darts
that might stick or knick or flutter past
as erratically as they were fired.
You could say their hostility was a swirl
nebulous as gas and dust,
diffuse as the stress
a body meticulously stores.
Like how when I was shoved in grade school
on the blacktop in my boy jeans
the teacher asked me if I had a strawberry
because the wound was fresh as jam, glistening
like pulp does after the skin of a fruit is
peeled back clean with a knife.
I was in the dream as open to the elements,
yet I fired back. And I didn’t care who eyed me
like warped metal to be pounded square.
I said: Do you realize where you are?
And with one finger I called our family forth
and out of the strobe lights, they came.
Copyright © 2016 by Jenny Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“Three of the historic lesbian bars I mention in ‘In the Dream’—Sisters, the Lex, and the Palms—have recently closed their doors. So on one hand, ‘In the Dream’ is a narrative of solidarity in the face of homophobia, but also the poem is importantly a dream, a fantasy of a space where queer lives and experiences are foregrounded.”
Jenny Johnson is the author of In Full Velvet (Sarabande Books, 2017).
Date Published: 2016-04-27
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/dream-0