Dream on the Ides
"What sayst thou to me now? Speak once again."
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
The dream opens in a room of dusky light,
evening coming on. Two young men,
familiar with each other.
I am there, watching. An old guitar lies on a low table. Dark wood, scratched, gouged splinters of wood missing.
My father arrives in a Hawaiian shirt. Not looking at us, he picks up the guitar. Foot on the table, he plays, his blunt
freckled fingers flying. The shivering riffs of jazz, pluck and slap of flamenco, thrum of folk songs in dimming light.
The two youths nod at each other, lean forward. They are not my brothers. My father, yes, who died suddenly
on the Ides of March. At early spring dinners growing up, we intoned "Beware the Ides of March," and laughed. A campfire ignites
on the shore of Cayuga Lake, guitar music carries
over water and circles back into the dream. Dad,
how do you want me to wake? To sing?
One bird on a branch opens the day
especially in late winter. Two birds twisting close in flight lean into a future devising a nest, swift as spring comes, weaving a bowl of twig-grass hope.
Three silhouetted against feathery clouds, stark and shapely stop me. Four birth a cawing band, dressed in black. (Four-and-twenty baked in a pie flew out, singing.)
Five founded a village in a stubble field that won't last past furrowing. Six costumed as leaves pretend to blow away and return to bow, inventing theater.
Is it Susan Glaspell's Trifles: a strangled canary, a strangled husband only the women connect but never tell? After a Bard enthusiast brought all Shakespeare's birds
to Central Park, that theater,
some died, sparrows survived,
European starlings thrived,
slathering their murmurations
across the country, wreaking
damage. But isn't their name
pretty? Sandhill cranes dance,
exuberantly tossing grassy
confetti. Rising from ponds
in New Mexico, snow geese
pull the sun up. The fact is
only if my lungs fill with air
in borrowed wings of rib, only
then can I speak.
For the Pocket Cat
— For Lucretia, named after suffragist Lucretia Mott
For the pocket cat, who could hide in a teacup. For she whose long hair, even puffed, could not reach the edges of her being. For her face was divided by color but never her loyalty. For she chose a person and saw her through. And vice versa, rescued and rescuing. For she helped with writing, though she herself preferred to sit on the pages. For she was wise early and taught her companion by batting the pens. For she ate little, for she was only half in this world. For she slept light as sun on every sill. For in her first life she was a small cloud and in her second life a falcon, her heart an opal. For no one knew her true beginning, nor which life she was on, which is to say cat. For she was tri-colored, sprightly, and whole. For her purr was the motor of a world.
Veronica Patterson’s poetry collections include How to Make a Terrarium (Cleveland State University, 1987), Swan, What Shores? (NYU Press Poetry Prize, 2000), Thresh & Hold (Gell Poetry Prize, 2009), & it had rained (CW Books, 2013), and Sudden White Fan (Cherry Grove, 2018), as well as and two chapbooks: This Is the Strange Part (2002) and Maneuvers: Battle of the Little Bighorn Poems (2013). Poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and selected for Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. She has twice won Colorado Council on the Arts Grants, and attended several residencies. She is a graduate of Cornell University, the University of Michigan, the University of Northern Colorado, and Warren Wilson College (MFA Poetry).