“How to Say, ‘I Was Scared of Fire as a Kid'” by Michael Martin Shea


Found in Willow Springs 69

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Last night, I dreamt I was shot in the head. I still had
six hours to live, but there was nothing I wanted to do.

I tell this while we're in bed together, while you're stroking
my chest with your free hand and propping your head on the other,

or maybe I don't tell you this, because you're still having nightmares
about your friend who lived that dream in reverse,

and her painting of the lake reflecting the tree still hangs
above our bed, so maybe I tell you something funny,

like, I dreamt we adopted a dog, one that had been beaten or trained
to kill, and we kept it in our elevator, but you don't laugh. You say,

That's not funny.

You say, That's not funny at all. Are you joking? and I tell you, yes,
I'm joking, or no, no I just had this dream and I can't help it,

and then you tell me about a dream you had, one where you're a kayaker
with kittens duct taped to your paddle, like you're giving them a bath,

which actually is funny, so maybe the difference between dreams
and nightmares depends on how much duct tape is involved,

duct tape being

inherently comedic, which would make that dream I had about

dropping acid

with my father and robbing a bank in Madrid only a dream

as long as we duct tape up a hostage or two or as long as no one gets shot
or paints dreary scenes where one thing reflects the other

the way they do in dreams, as if a parked car could dream

of being stollen

which I tell you and you laugh and your breasts shake

but then you sigh, as if you almost believe it, as if you believe
that a tree can dream of a lake, or a lake can want to wake up

from its dream of being a tree. So later we have sex and it's great
and all that, but I can't stop thinking about those kittens

gasping for breath like us, so when I finish I kiss you on the mouth
as if to say, here, take this. You can believe this.

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