Poem: Rita Feinstein

Illo for Rita Feinstein's poem.

Dream Journal

My dream dictionary has everything from Abandoned Places to Zoos but nothing that explains why I always feel like a maze of empty cages when I wake up. It tells me to “try to remember who or what aroused feelings of love or passion in [my] dream,” but God, I’m trying to forget. That’s why the cages are empty.

If I told you I dreamed an evil kidney bean killed my favorite My Little Pony, you’d probably laugh. But now I know that danger can come from anywhere. Lover, I wonder how fast you can draw a gun.

Dreaming is sleeping with a problem. Last night, I dreamed I couldn’t decide what to wear. Ultimately I picked out a dress, leggings, and an overshirt in different colors of plaid. The night before, I made an even worse mistake. I dreamed I brought you home with me and announced, in my best English accent, “We’re going to bed!” My roommates were agog. Of all the people I could have imagined, they never imagined it would be you.

They tell me it’s unhealthy to spend so much time with you, so I make an imaginary friend too. She is ugly and obligatory and her name is Linda. I have always hated koalas and the color forest green, so I design her as such. We don’t have anything in common. She’s always eating melon balls and borrowing my clothes without asking. One day she spills eucalyptus oil on my plaid overshirt. “You bitch!” I cry, striking her across the face. She slaps me back, and we both laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Then you come home and shoot her between the eyes, killing her instantly. “I didn’t like the way she was looking at you,” you say. I weep inconsolably all night, face buried in my plaid shirt with its fading scent of eucalyptus.

Lately I’ve been trying to learn something about the news, though I’m disappointed that none of it is about me. Instead I find articles about Bullet, the dog whose owner was shot, and Trigger, the dog who shot his owner. Maybe people should name their dogs Lottery or Extra Guacamole.

I used to tell myself, if only you murdered something I loved, I could stop loving you. Lover, it’s not that simple. If anything, I love you more. It doesn’t help that you learned to play “Even Better Than the Real Thing” on piano. I gasp as I’m plunged into the frosty notes of a song I no longer recognize, and can’t remember any other way.

I don’t listen to U2 anymore. Don’t try to convince me. When I told my energy worker I loved Bono, she said the love we think we feel for other people is just misdirected love for ourselves. She also said her potted fern loves to be hugged.

When I see a bat, I feel like it belongs inside my body. Like I’m not so much a zoo as a forgotten hibernaculum. Somewhere I heard that bats are drawn to ruined temples.

You’re in a coral button-up and dark-wash jeans, and I’m teaching you how to clear the bad energy from a room. You’re a good listener, a real prodigy. Spirits begone, we say, clapping the shadows away. Spirits begone. But lover, do not clap at me. I am not done sleeping with you yet.

Lover, I don’t think you understand. Come inside me, and we’ll talk.
Rita Feinstein is a recent graduate of Oregon State University’s MFA program. Her work has appeared in The Cossack Review, the Barrelhouse blog, Hypertrophic Literary, and Menacing Hedge, among other publications.


“Dreaming is sleeping with a problem” and “I don’t listen to U2 anymore. Don’t try to convince me” are modified versions of lines from Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.

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