Poetry: Dream Bird by Erin Williamson
Erin Williamson’s “Dream Bird” is an exceptional display by a new poet: a fantasy of warriors and feathers, of getting lost in a landscape’s leering masculinity. “This is just a dream,” the speaker says. “So real. So real.”
There is much reverence for sleep but, to me, it is like falling off to war.
Each night I slip from the edge and land heavy at the bottom.
My teacher meets me there; she is cloaked in ragged velvet.
My teacher offers me a sword and says, same as all the nights before:
“Hold the weapon like a bird. Your grip cannot be crushing
like a vice, nor gentle like a cradle.” This is just a dream.
Like all dreams it is, to everyone else, a bore. The cast iron meaning
collapses into nothing as soon as light rises and I push through
alarm bells to explain the detail. But it is always like this:
I hold my weapon like instructed and stand naked in a glass house,
so dreamy. Outside, brambles stretch and bow toward the
windowpanes and I look out to a familiar, impossible landscape.
Peering back at me through the pane is a robin. He looks
male to me; robins always do, – puffed chests, askance eyes.
If problematic masculinity could birth itself, it would land as robin: pesky, leering.
In this moment though, I give consent for nosy robin looking.
I am giant and beautiful; my body refracted through glass.
The house is quiet. I raise my sword to the knife-edge of violence and grace.
Suddenly, like always, the robin flings itself against the glass. The house wavers, then
shatters. My teeth fall out, I realize I am late to the only place I have ever needed to be.
Predictably, I lose my sword among the disintegrating windows and must retrace my steps.
I follow the shard-trail back to my sword and find it is the same path that I
dream-remember describing to my lover, awake, in bed that morning.
I have lived through this before and risen, mythic.
Through everything, robins swarm. They pummel me with their tin-tough beaks
and chirp the same old songs of chorus, refrain, chorus. They never sing a verse.
I arc my weapon. I trill. I am not crushing, I am not gentle. I am a warrior.
I wake up, bloody nose and parchment colored bruises rising on my chest.
I find my shoes, I pour my coffee, I go to work.
So real. So real.
Erin Williamson manages a micro-loan fund and lives in Seattle with her vibrant, boisterous family.