Step 31 (91.)

Footprints in the snow.
How long ago did we leave these?
They are surely our own.
We retread our own steps,
until they diverge at a sidewalk.
Theirs go one way, mine the other.
We dreamed in difference,
not indifference, and while we filter
experience in different ways,
we worked together in the end.
A dynamic dream duo, I should think.
Yet we walk into waking life as solitary beings.
I turn, they turn, and our backs face each other.
Walk ten paces and turn again.
They have turned as well.
I look, they look, we are gazing at each other
in a way that isn’t quite caught or felt in sleep.
I raise my hand.
They raise their hand.
We wave. We leave.
A wave of exhaustion washes over me,
and I trudge the final few steps to my door.
Turn the key, walk inside, prepare to turn in.
The blankets are cold, but I will warm them in time.
I have walked thousands of miles through minds,
and it is time
to wander alone.
The final step before sleep: to say
good night.


Step 30 (90.)

It could all be as easy
as cutting a door through space,
a simple task in dreams.
Yet this walk
is one that demands full attention on reflections.
Back past the void,
the drunkard with his gin,
the pieces of exploded tin,
the castle melted to slag,
the underwater room and its cave,
those colorful beautiful plants,
the new cacti family,
the oasis where I met my guides
(beautiful feathers and fur),
and learned to fly,
the tower rising, imperious and mysterious, elevating us whence we came.
Woods haunted by different dreams,
frigid sea floor,
another void with oily darkness clinging like unwelcome hands,
always more,
stars swirling and dancing in the distance,
a sacred something to it all so I bow my head again,
shining subterranean wonders and terrors, some shrouded in bone dust,
moving as best we can in sludgy slug lives,
sky-ocean blurring like a rogue’s knives,
tremulous undersea cavorting on some level of dream hell,
emerge in forest full of arctic birds and sharp ticks,
wonder how they take their licks,
contemplate the mysteries of flight again,
wheeling among dream clouds and sleep shrouds,
are those pieces of the clouds themselves, no,
they are cold as ice.
It is the tumbling snow,
and we
are back where we began.


Step 29 (89.)

Not that there is anything wrong with darkness.
It is the parchment on which all our best thoughts are written,
the map that charts our wildest adventures,
the to-do list that outlines our best-and-worst-laid plans.
When the lights go out,
I write the schema
for some sort of future.
It can get dangerous, the darkness,
thus it is paramount to address it in solitude,
or, companion willing,
to bring a friend along.
Hence the somnambulist.
On a good night, our good knight
can ride their dream-steed up any kind of hill,
and slash with their vorpal blade any nightmare thicket,
but some nights aren’t good.
Just as some knights aren’t good.
Sleep warriors may metamorphose into sleep worriers,
and these
are the basest sort of sleep scoundrels.
Even the most vorpal of swords
cannot cut through the shadows that entangle
a breaking sanity.
They entered the night alone, our companion,
and I followed.
Turned potential wheezing into a we sing,
and our song
scattered the midnight storms.
It is entirely possible
that I or the skilled sleepwalker
will make it through many night walks
alone, unscathed, with mind intact.
Just in case, however …
camaraderie is the lantern we hold against encroaching shadows.
So I turn from this dark void,
pleased with my own thoughts,
to wind my way back home
with my new friend.


Step 28 (88.)

Avoid the void, I think most people say.
Not in those exact words, but when they say
“It keeps me going,”
“Do what you gotta do,”
“Have a good day,”
and so
on and so forth.
The viscera of et cetera
leaving behind that trail of blood …
leading right to the culprit,
a hole in a whole phrase that will likely lead to a death sentence.
What of the memento mori?
Is it best to leave the skull on a sign,
as a sign,
to assign that spot the task of warning heated flesh and pumping
blood away?
Perhaps it is best,
to keep the breathers breathing.
So we leave those dots of blood, to mark the wrong rites of passage,
’cause this is one threshold you won’t want to cross.
No matter how bright the light shines.
You always hold the ticket to this trip,
so why not stay a while?
Wander thee through these hinterlands
and see all there is to see.
Feel the motions of emotions swimming along your nervous system.
Decorate the cave in your skull before your skull caves in,
make it as cozy as can be,
’cause that final journey
leads to a darkness that light can’t banish.
So, please, fellow travelers, for now
avoid the void.


Step 27 (87.)

It is dark now.
What lights poisoned the sky
have had the grace to withdraw
and leave us in peace.
I sat on a small knoll to catch my breath
and I know the somnambulist sat down on the opposite bank,
but now, it is dark.
No moons. No suns.
No stars.
This dream is some kind of neo-fantasy,
so there are no headlights from passing cars.
Not even a hungry witch cruising by with a broom-lantern.
This, regrettably, is the pattern:
ideas burst in magnificent sprays of sleep-vision,
clarity beyond waking,
the mind a master summoner of psychedelic fantasies.
All based in reality, and that
is the real magic.
We know these slumber numbers, and yet
we convince ourselves of their unimportance.
Portents wait behind our eyelids
only to be waved away with sunlight
or sent packing by alarm bleats.
Then dreams get desperate, and infuse themselves
with a manic macabre energy
that streaks each picture with boulders, blood, and bones.
Monsters of various make populate these charnel funhouses
and it is ours to tangle with them, to see what makes them tick.
What rattles these bones to battle?
Why won’t these dream dogs lie while we sleep?
The mind always has much to say, and this is our only time to listen,
but the journey always ends the same way –
shrouded in unfathomable darkness.
No stars. No suns. No moons.
Just restless peace.
Someone had the grace to withdraw the lights before sleeping.
It is dark now.


Step 26 (86.)

Brimstone castle explodes. Smell of sulfur.
Jagged yellow shrapnel shreds the wagon – no one inside, phew.
The drunkard stops drinking gin. They listen, quiet.
Bats fly high and cover the moon. Even they want nothing from the detritus.
Rat soldiers hunker down in their cave bunker. Waiting. Surviving.
A river loops around most of the former castle,
and in its ancient waters, toxins now dance
with menace, like a mugger with a knife.
I fly as fast as I can to the chattering stream
and if I hold my breath,
I can hear the river scream.
In its way, it is on fire,
and what can douse the flame that burns water?
What we need is a miracle.
The somnambulist alights on the opposite shore, shaking
their tired head. Their eyes glow like lamplight
on a midnight street,
and they motion to me from across decaying water.
Their hands swirl, then splay fingers out
in a gesture that resembles
confetti bursting from its mechanism.
I follow these patterns until they imprint
on my mind, then I
try them myself.
As I swirl my hands in a double helix,
my companion matches my moves,
and we blast confetti together.
I hold my splayed fingers above the aching river
and after a pause,
yellow slime is flung from the water
as though it upset a catapult.
The somnambulist nods to me, satisfied,
and we doctors of dreams
take a few well-earned moments to rest.


Step 25 (85.)

How many mouths must one enter?
Every door, archway, hole in a wall, tree, or mountain, space
carved out of any surface and/or object, it’s all
a mouth. And this subterranean submersion feels like
entering a giant mouth.
Why, O why, did I have to bring the somnambulist with me?
A tug on my free-floating foot.
This is why they are with me –
a quiet snap reverberates through
the silence of this sunken space
and, suddenly, light.
The vice-like grip of my fear that I had somehow
sentenced my companion to a water-logged grave
loosens, and I can now make sense of our new
intradimensional dream tunnel.
There is not much to make.
Sometimes light simply throws shadows at walls,
and this place is so full of shadows
that we still can’t see its confines.
There is something, though:
a small ring of white something that looks like smoke,
emanating from behind my friend.
I point, and they move their lighted hand
to get a better view.
The ring expands, and in its widening circle, we see
a castle made of brimstone, a wagon made of tin,
a person made of fingers upon fingers of gin,
an army made of bats, a cavern full of rats,
and some sentences made of ragged fragments of phrases.
None of it makes much sense,
but with no present ideas,
we choose to improvise.
I leave this pooled prison behind
and rise through uncertainty
to float above the ring, and I,
I enter into its mystery.


Step 24 (84.)

One space always leads to another,
and now a cavernous maw opens in the dirt.
Wait, it’s exactly what it seems: a tunnel
into what could be an extended cave system.
I lead the somnambulist into the unknown,
and around and within us, I feel no fear.
Gems and crystals creep and gesture from every crevice,
the same colors as the garden treasures above ground,
vermilion, blue, fuchsia, orange, the green that gave neon its name –
they flash from everywhere.
As we walk along,
the colors lose their luster
and the tunnel turns eerily quiet.
A drip resounds from ahead and below,
just one noise at first.
It soon grows to become all we know,
and it encompasses everything we sense.
The steady dripping takes on waves of light
and sends them crashing against our minds,
so we see and do not see –
a dancing light show jumps from the darkness below,
and it leads us into a monstrous cavern.
Or a cavernous monster;
who’s to know?
The lights hit us harder, and the dripping gets
louder, and its resonance traces back
to an immense underground lake.
I look at my companion,
they nod,
and we
advance into the subterranean waters.
All the lights
stop. Total darkness.


Step 23 (83.)

I missed gardens,
as in, I had not taken the time to properly
set one up and care for it.
I missed them too, this prolonged dreamwalk
having led me in twists and turns
that make intestines feel faint.
A million colors pop out to say hello, and the flowers wave their petals to and fro,
and some kind of vermilion tomato pops its juice into the sky.
Liquid lands with a sound like twenty water balloons exploding at once,
and the whole terrarium is drenched.
Thirst for vengeance not quenched, the tomato’s juice
dissolves whole vegetables in its wake,
leaving naught behind but tangled knots of roots and jagged stems.
These rough legs can’t support what is now gone.
Wind whistles through vines and brambles,
then kazoos into the soil
and clarinets a dozen trenches that are waiting for some actions.
The somnambulist waits too,
and my reaction
is to scatter all the nuts and berries and flutes of pollen in my hands.
They watch me with an air that feels like satisfaction,
nothing like the symphonic wind that crescendos the end of this garden.
Blue stalks climb from gravedirt, bright orange saplings sprout like zombies,
and whole rows of rainbow herbs parade above the ground.
I’m not sure who spoke ill of tomatoes the last time they made these rounds,
but they really pissed off that vermilion bastard.
The spiteful juice and its effects are all gone now,
and life springs forth again.
One day another weary traveler will uproot their sleep to be here,
and they will decide
what the soil does next.


Step 22 (82.)

Water touch,
a skill unknown to most,
but in this context it is all I can surmise.
Happy chime resonates as their hand brushes needles,
and the lone cactus has bloomed forty-fold,
a seeming celebration as tiny succulents
burst from the sand in joy.
No mere illusions, these cacti friends,
they stand and wave in the desert sun
and bless this dream with green.
The somnambulist wipes their hand on their pants
and nods, waiting for my move.
I reach out, to touch my cactus flower,
and caress its petals with affection.
No need for fear, or glass defenses,
we open this desert garden to appreciation.
Satisfied, I look at my companion,
and I show my newfound abilities.
My furred and feathered guides moved ahead,
and it is mine
to follow their lead.
The moon shines above,
with shadows hiding unseen dreams,
and these visions are paramount.
A strong shrug of shoulders
and I am airborne,
with the somnambulist following suit.
Should have known they had this power,
but this is also my journey –
our motions need be synchronous,
if we are to succeed.
In these dreams lie the seeds
of futures,
and we endeavor their harvest
to plant them
for posterity.