"Body of Dreams"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Aug. 16 2011 6:50 AM

"Body of Dreams"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Peter Streckfus read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Last night, my father came to my dreaming

self in the form of a vampire.

A vampire's position is liminal—

neither alive nor dead, both and neither,

in Japanese, two-but-not-two.

The vampire, my father, no longer on this earth,

was on the earth but could not touch me

without hurting me, nor could he speak to the dead.

Unable to pass, he craved and feared his lasting.

A bardo is a boundary between states,

Tibetan in origin—a gap that can serve as a bridge,

an open span filled with an atmosphere of suspension,

neither this nor that, nini-funi. In Dante's

version, one is offered a definite end—

suffer for your mistakes, and you will ascend. 

The bardo of self-cognizant wakefulness,

the bardo of dreams, the bardo of meditation,

the bardo that occurs at the moment of death,

the bardo of the luminosity of true nature,

the bardo of transmigration or true becoming—

where there is the death of one state of mind

there is the birth of another, and between these

there is bardo, it is said—he came to me like this—

he did not sleep like an animal, nor was he awake.

The ghost state, the purgatorial state, the dream state 

—the fish circuiting their tanks. The Chinese of the vendors

in the background, the music in the market,

the white noise of water aerators. I hear the sounds

and feel a swimming sensation in my chest, a video

fiction, a trick I play on myself—orange, silver-gray,

and white ghost bodies—on each body that, fanlike,

tails the head, fanlike appendages—carp, perhaps thirty,

roiling around—one extends its jaws before its face

as a human person might lick the inside of his lips.

My dream ends with my father like a batman hero

swan diving off the roof of the building

on which we speak—incapable of flight, choosing pain

in place of death that would not yet come. I saw him jump

but didn't hear the sound of his body hitting the earth.



Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Do the Celebrities Whose Nude Photos Were Stolen Have a Case Against Apple?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company


How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 3:19 PM In Defense of Congress Leaving Town Without a New War Vote
Business Insider
Sept. 18 2014 3:31 PM What Europe Would Look Like If All the Separatist Movements Got Their Way
Sept. 18 2014 3:24 PM Symantec Removes Its “Sexual Orientation” Filter
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 3:30 PM How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Sept. 18 2014 4:00 PM When The Cosby Show Got “Very Special” Why were The Cosby Show’s Very Special Episodes so much better than every other ’80s sitcom’s?
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 2:39 PM Here's How to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.