The other night, I dreamt of
lions. I am a poor man and I do not think my dreams have any real value. I live
in a rented room of a cheap hotel in the hum and drum of a graffiti written
city. Dreams are things I throw into the trash, stuff I send down the toilet. I
do not spend any more time thinking about them than I spend thinking about
breathing. But since the lions, I have begun to change my mind about them. I
was walking in a field of high grass and trees and the lions watched me
intently, their faces kindly. They surprised me with their friendliness. Do not
lions attack and eat us?
My room is a barren place, a
few pictures hanging on the walls, a cracked mirror above an old sink, a
bathroom down the hall. I sleep in it, that is all. I like to walk. I walk most
all day long. I know the city from its streets. I think of myself as something
of a poet, though admittedly in my time it is like singing in the shower. I do
not publish my poetry. I just pretend for a while that it is good and I am a
poet then and then I know again that I am a poor man living in a rented room of
a cheap hotel in the hum and drum of a graffiti written city.
I think of my race in various
ways. Let me explain. I once knew a man who wrote a book entitled All Men Are Mariners. I never read his
book, but I liked his title for it very much, so that one day I wrote:
Men are mariners on the homeless waters
they call with sea sick mouths
the sirens dancing along the shores
the sands of their restless hours,
storms under a blood red moon
to drown them in the deep.
Another way I looked at my
contemporaries had to do with the time I spent in the Army. Hung over, I spent
some time on a hill overlooking a little town. From the hill, I watched men
leading their cattle pulling carts full of wood from the hills back to their
town, where their women and children, after a day in the fields, waited for
them. The axels in the wheels of these carts, ungreased, seem to scream up to
me on the hill, piercing the headache of my hangover with a knife of sound that
seemed to cut in two my soul from my body, my body from my soul. I wrote:
In the silence of the world,
tread the dusts of a dirt hard road
our barren towns,
fire our only comfort there
the children our wives bear alone.
can speak for us?
Then there is death. We are
born free to die. We breath air like fish swim water and birds fly the winds in
the skies around the planet, until we die. Are all things meant but oblivion?
When I was a boy, I used to imagine, in the woods where I played near my home,
that after the whole world vanished I also would vanish and there would only be
the nothingness. I used to have to shake myself loose from the grip of this
imagination, take a deep breath, and become a breathing boy once more. But I
could never forget the nothingness. When I went to high school and read
Sartre's Nausea, I thought I knew
better than him Quentin's sickness. I wrote:
The dark drowns in its depths
breath of all breathing things,
a flood of the waters,
a quake of the mountains,
a fire from the heavens,
what is there left to say
the dark of the depths?
can speak for us?
You may imagine that I felt
like an outsider in this world, a kind of misfit, exiled from the main flow of
things, unable to catch on to where people thought they were going. I was like
a child in winter gazing through a window into the warmth
of a home from which I had
been orphaned, a stranger in the cold. Why should I reckon with my dreams? They
were nothing but the garbage of the hard time a prisoner serves for a crime he
cannot remember committing.
That was the way it was
before I dreamt of the lions. I wrote then:
He roars in judgment
also for salvation.
he devours death,
know his joy shapes,
of the nothingness,
life for the living.
know he speaks for us!
Let me explain. In exile with
me is the lion who is the king of the beasts. We fear him with our cities and
roads and towns and harbors. We fear him as if he were a devouring animal. We
would capture him and cage him up in our zoo. We would train him to serve our
pleasure. But he remains an exile, a lion in exile, and it was there that he
found me, and gave me a family of lions with which to be. More and more these
days, I feel less alone and more in the main streams of time with the lions in
exile. We are found by the Lion in Exile. I write now:
He roars to gather his people
the warped generations,
the lost generations,
the beat generations,
the silent generations,
the warped generations,
the twisted generations
Himself in a world where
His Name is almost forbidden,
Son of God,
Son of David,
Son of Man,
Lion King He is,
Lamb He is,
Person Jesus Christ is.
Actually, I am an old man you
see sitting alone in a park and dreaming of lions in his barren room in the hum
of the city.