Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Babies' Dreams

"You know what, papa? I dreamed
I found a toad!" she says, still lying
on her back in the middle; mama's gone
and in the kitchen. Twilight tones
mute the details, and I smile as I reach
for my glasses. "So you did? What colour
was it?" She smiles, "All colours!
Green, and red, and yellow, and white!"

Weeks, maybe months, have passed,
and the daughter's growing up,
right now in her own bed, sleeping.

My son's voice is like a cartoon
"I got a digger! and a fire engine,
and a load truck, and an ambulance!"
He slept with his miniatures, until
not long ago, but now leaves them
on his favourite arm chair, or in box.
He's asleep, now in that same middle,
and mama's gone in the o'dark pre-dawn,
driving the pickup to distribute papers.

In the year after coming home,
the lass would wake us crying,
and I would try to take her,
but she said,"I want my mama!"
and there was not much more
I could do then; mama'd get her.
Later at breakfast, after a while
she'd smile and joke.

Every night, just about, for two years
she'd wake crying. Now no more, she's five
and she sometimes walks quietly out, squinting
and stands silently, accusing, or waiting,
as I turn around to get her to the sofa
or over to "the big bed," where she'll lie
now in my place--her brother's in the middle.
Mama would be on the other side, sleeping?

Now the lad wakes, crying, or calling
his composure is much more sure.
"Mama! Papa!" he sometimes rushes out
clutching a firetruck or a dinosaur.
I used to wonder what they dream
when their eyes would move under the lids.
One night at bedtime stories my daughter
stopped me, saying, "Papa, we cannot go

"to sleep until we figure what to do
for the war in Iraq!" We sit quietly
her attention on me, my stunned silence.
She is not quite five. I clear my throat,
"Well, what do you think we should do?"

"We should send a big airplane
and drop a bomb on the terrorists!"

"Annie, what if the bomb killed mamas
and babies, and papas who are not bad guys?"
She pauses for a second, concentrating,
but rejoins with, "Well, then we must
send a fast big airplane with a hundred
soldiers, and each soldier with two guns!
They will kill the terrorists! That's what
we should do, papa!" her voice is urgent.

Inside I've stepped between mines,
and am frozen in time and space. I smile,
and very carefully ask her,"When did you
think this?" She is calm, and sure of herself.
She is no longer a baby, but she is a baby,
and she sits planning public policy.
Where is the little girl? There she is!
Yet I both fear and mourn the loss.


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