Customs for Waking

by Emma Aylor

I know it’s rare for me to start
this way: talking plainly to you, as I am now.

It’s as simple as wanting
to tell you something that happened

to me. Last night I dreamed I was a child,
traveling somewhere north, who kept

forgetting her luggage: toy, toothbrush, change
of clothes. Then needing to be

driven back. Over and over, this,
through a city, out past openings

that then closed over into darker woods,
soon before I woke up, or else

I’d have no chance to remember. But every dream
I remember is the same: It is my duty

to go up and down and up the spiral stairs.
Or I walk a circle with a crowd. If I can move,

the move repeats. Or often I’m stuck in a chair,
in water, on the ground. I wake having set

my jaw and arranged my limbs
as if for solemn burial. In some dreams

I’m dead; in others, alive.
Artemidorus might advise that this means

more than I’d like. Waking, though, early dawn
is just blue enough to seem electric—

for a few minutes, it could be any
time of night, complete with flicker

of the neighbor’s TV or outside lights—
before the late sun we earn

so far west in the time zone heats
a little and ticks like a stove; soon

the cat’s light feet mark their hallway watch
by creaks in the warping wood of our old house;

soon the sudden fever of your chest
and the dog’s foot dug, from her place

between us, into my softening side; soon my near-
sightedness, waking, might seem, in blurring

colors, to move, painterly—it could all mean
nothing, except that I made it.


Emma Aylor’s poems have appeared in New England Review, AGNI, Colorado Review, Poetry Daily, the Yale Review Online, and elsewhere. She lives in Lubbock, Texas.

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