End of February; Universe of Bad Dreams


By Joan Colby


It’s nine degrees.
The new snow is unblemished.
The sky milky blue, the color of providence.
A day for prayer if I were one who petitioned
The icy universe in its benevolent disguise.
The muse of history in her marble gown
Raises a cold hand devoid of judgment.
What happens, happens.
See how the wind has sculpted
An insignia along the snow fence.
It might say sincerely
Or even love, but it doesn’t.
Such reveries are pointless.
Tonight it will be colder.


I envy those who have the dream of flying,
Birdlike and free, without a trapeze
To cling to, without a partner with powdered
Hands. In my dreams, I swim without arriving
At a tropical island, lose my car or my keys
Wander in the boiler room of a university.

Some dreams apparently are universal:
Naked in public, forgetting the speech, flying.
I never have these. Instead, I’m rummaging for keys
That are inexplicably missing. The trap
Eases its clamps upon my sleep. Arriving
In the parking lot covered with a powdery

Snowfall, I take a moment to powder
My nose, comb my hair as if the universe
Cares a fig about my presentation. I’ve arrived
After a difficult plane flight
In which my mother is the pilot. A trapeze
Of terror jangles like my car keys.

Dreams should be restful. Not all keyed
Up like these. Someone rises, shouts “Take a powder”
As I recite the poem I can’t remember. Trapped
On a scaffold that clings to the university’s
Façade—some work is undertaken—I must climb or fly
Or fall. In this dream, I never arrive

At my destination. Instead something awful arrives
In the boiler room of pipes and grime. My keys
Between my fingers for a weapon. I’m flying
From one pillar to another. Hiding in a barrel of black powder.
The car I parked behind the university
Is missing. This dream of traps

Assumes the geometrics of a trapezoid.
Surely, this is not where I am meant to arrive.
Surely, this is an alternate universe,
This dreamland to which I have lost the key.
A rabbit white as talcum powder
Laughs. The Red Queen howls “Now you are flying!”

Flying down the boulevard without a key
Or a vehicle. No date of arrival in this universe
Where half my life is trapped and ground to powder.


Joan Colby is a widely published, award winning poet with 21 books, the latest being Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. She is a senior editor with FutureCycle Press and associate editor of Good Works Review.