Linda Parsons Marion

In Dreams

In dreams, the girl I knew once is long legged

with sun-red flanks, blond as I am now, though

her hair flies like sudden joy from her shoulders.

The girl who hurdles over footstools cannot be

me, a quiet child staring down the camera’s eye,

my mother always said, stuffing words into

my lower lip like the mashed peas I refused

to swallow. Shirley and I, so clothed in light

our coats glisten as if we have been groomed

by rough tongues and nudged past the gate

into the still-wet field.

After supper of soupbeans, cottage cheese

and canned peaches, Shirley’s father takes her

for a canter on his back, calls me taterpie, dangles

sugar cubes so I cannot refuse — but where are

the mothers and their warm breath, their hooves

marking where we mustn’t cross. Who will curry

and braid our silver manes? I am lifted above

the hedges of furniture, the ride bumps me down

to his neck; my valley of inner thigh he nuzzles

nose and mouth, as if I am acres of timothy,

fine as that trough of sweetfeed steaming

at the end of the rows.

Only now, in dreams, does the cold bit

drop from my teeth, lost in sumac and sedge.

We are no longer girls, fork-tender and delicious,

to be sucked dry as marrowbone. Our dim

nightmare at the paddock sinks in the distance.

Morning and the meadow are ours to roam.

Untethered and gangly, we tremble a little

to see the world this close.