I have hard dreams. Sometimes I’m asleep for them.
The night that I conceived a woman hung downface from the ceiling. White hair, arms out, slender body adorned in fluttering sheets, she more flew than fell. Dead, I presumed. All day it had rained. We’d fucked to pass time- on the bed, the dresser, the carpet, a brief stint in the antique rocking chair. Vacation. Black and white portraits in worn frames filled the wall: vignettes, stiff shouldered, square jaws. Humorless sepia eyes that drilled through glass and skin. He slept.
Still the woman. Before the woman there were roses: red roses on a white-gleaming wall, vision steady-panning as they melted into blood. And the salamanders: a swift creek full of them, brown, bright red, yellow-striped, slick heads and thick tails whipping against the current. Occasionally a grainy clump of dirt, a half-decayed frond fallen from a fern. And then of course the roadside, weeds tall, purple mountain flowers small under parasols of Queen Ann’s lace- punctured by a black stone obelisk higher than my head.
Intermittently a gash in the roadside: red Georgia clay, steep-clean fallen from a gouge in the earth, marked by rivulets of erosion. Visions flashed in and out of me; I tossed in the sheets.
Then the woman again. Her ceiling- or mine, my rented ceiling- real, staid by walls and floor, oddly slanted. So hot, that room; my eyelids burned, eyes sharp with salt. I stank. She came down, she came to me. I closed my eyes so as not to see. In vision, dark, her eyelids sliding open precisely as mine squeezed shut. Blue, a cold and cooling blue, eyelashes curled like a snake to strike.
Only later did I find that I conceived. Oddly, first, a terror of parking garages and elevators; later, nausea. Then the swell, the flutter, the breaking of water. Milk, joy, thrush. A long colic wail in competition with the oceanic roar of the vacuum.
But first I thought- we thought- that I was insane. Salamanders, roses, obelisks, wounds- a vicious grinning ghost of a woman with her arms flung out like Jesus. What the hell?
She didn’t come back to me until after the rape. She was older then, twisted and thin. I was too. Dried gray herbs, pale nuts, white roots and bits of things surrounded her, broken glass and mirror shards. They shook with her words.
Nurture me, she commanded. Nurture me!
I ran from my bed.