My dream begins like a fairy tale. Wild wolves are in the house—not tame ones, like the insipid talker that seduced the girl in red—but loud, howling wolves. Their mouths open, their teeth gleaming. A whole pack of them disrupting a party my mother has planned for weeks. They tear through the buffet: the carefully arranged relish tray, perfectly seasoned chicken casserole, elaborately decorated raspberry torte. Not to mention what they do to the guests. Terrorizing people I don’t even know—men in navy suits, women in white gloves—strangers in my own house. Finally, my father and brother chase the wolves out. They brandish heavy chains like cowboys with rope lassos, stopping the wolves and their wildness. Herding them out to the backyard. That’s the part of the dream when I realize my mother isn’t there. Not in the bedroom with its silent walls, not in the kitchen with its stainless steel, not in the eyes of my father, vacant and blue. I leave the house and the wolves to find her, traveling down a dark road that leads me away from all that I know. I find another house—strange but familiar— and there I find my mother. She is talking to another mother, an African woman, about heritage, family, roots. They both seem to be connected, joined; as if my mother is this woman’s daughter. My mother who talks with her hands as she punctuates the air with fingered exclamations, with an embrace of questions. And then it happens… as if in slow motion, the fairy tale transforms itself into a faint heartbeat. My mother stops everything— her gestures, her talking, her breathing. I rush out and scream for help but nothing greets me. My scream becomes a single note piercing the air like a violin’s long wail before the bow leaves it. My dream is empty for a long time until a faceless man appears on the open road pushing a red wheelbarrow. He rocks it like a cradle and I know my mother’s soul is nesting inside, still and quiet. In the center of this hollow wheelbarrow, the woman who gave me birth is now lifeless, curled like a nautilus, the ocean’s memory. And all my tears, and all my prayers cannot bring her back, cannot awaken her from the wheelbarrow’s lullaby. Not even my alarm clock’s shrill commands or my brother’s loud call: YOU’RE LATE, YOU’RE LATE. Not even knowing my mother lies sleeping—alive and sleeping in the bedroom down the hall— can shake the dream awake. Dream of wild wolves and their full-throated songs; dream of a daughter and the long-haired soul of her mother.
Linda Nemec Foster is the author of twelve collections of poetry including The Blue Divide, The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2019 Michigan Notable Book), Talking Diamonds, Amber Necklace from Gdansk, and Listen to the Landscape. Her work has also appeared in The Georgia Review, Nimrod, Quarterly West, North American Review, New American Writing, and the Paterson Literary Review. A new book of prose poems, Bone Country, is forthcoming from Cornerstone Press in 2023. The inaugural Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan (2003-05), Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.
Joshua Effiong is a writer and digital artist from the Örö people of Nigeria. Author of a poetry chapbook Autopsy of Things Left Unnamed(2020). His works have been published or forthcoming in 580 split, Wrongdoing Magazine, Vast Literary Press, Native Skin and elsewhere. He tweets @JoshEffiong