wake up, wake up (a prose poem)


Last night, I dreamt that the levee broke again. We had been staying with a friend in NOLA and went to the canal (?) to watch as the makeshift levee was released (and the new one dropped into place).

Men walked by us, measuring the water level on with sticks that they dragged through the water. There was a kerfufle because the crowd was supposed to shout the measurement as the man opposite walked past. But the people measuring could not always agree on where the line was.

And then we were counting down to the moment of the release.

And then the water rose. The water rose. But only slightly. Everyone cheered.

And then the ground dropped underneath us and a tsunami struck.

Waves and waves of salt water, crashing over my head. I was suddenly completely alone in this watery slew.

And I did the only thing I know to do when the waves crash overhead: I took as deep a breath as I could and I duck dived, down to the ground, my feet sinking in, pause. pause. waiting for the wave to crash, the moment to be right, then springing upward.

My feet kicked and kicked, the water rushing past my body.

And I surfaced. The only one.

The only one.

I returned to my friend's house. She had gone somewhere else (a dance gig, I think) and had no idea what had happened.

I had to tell her: I'm lucky to be here.

She looked at me in shock, but she didn't really understand, not really. She was not there. Her life went on, curtain call to curtain call.

And so, in my dream, I went back to the canal and the levee broke again. The same scenes, replayed. The measuring sticks, the wrong numbers, the ground dropping out from under my feet as the wave loomed overhead.

And this time, I had time to call to my child before we held our breath, and I held his hand and showed him how to survive, his feet finding the bottom and kicking off so that even in the dark, with the rushing crashing waves, we could find our way up again. Sometimes, finding the way to the surface only comes after you've found the bottom to tell you which way is up.

And if I had continued dreaming, I know this: I would have called you all to me. One at a time, my dream continuing this loop, and each time I gained the time, just that tiny measure of time and experience necessary to save one more person.

Holding hands. Diving deep. Feet touching the earth and springing upwards, towards the surface.

The endless wave, the endless surface, breathing and holding and breathing again.

And yet it was a dream.

And yet.

And yet.