Ten Nights' Dreams
Lee Ann Roripagh
(after Natsume Soseki)
Suddenly, a jostling noisy passel of little brothers. All towheads, identically
garbed in maroon hoodies, blue jean shorts, and tube socks. Russian nesting
doll septuplets, each one incrementally smaller.
You want to take a shower but can't, because the hotel bathroom's filled with smelly
boy stuff—bathroom overflowing with dirty linen. You lift away sopping towels to find
a boy's foot in the bathtub. It's pale white. Squishy and waterlogged.
Can you clean this up for me? you ask one of your towheaded brothers.
He takes out the towels, but leaves the foot behind.
Take that foot out of the bathtub, too! you scold. Is that your foot?
He shakes his head no—it belongs to one of the other brothers—tosses it into
You can’t throw away a foot in the bathroom trash, you tell him. Don’t you know it’s
You’re standing on a sidewalk with a friend. The two of you wear orange hunting vests.
There’s a yellow parking ticket on the windshield of your Jeep.
I didn’t know I couldn’t park here, you say, turning to your friend, who is no longer female,
no longer your friend.
Closed captioning re-identifies her as: Unidentified Male Companion.
Now your Jeep’s been towed away, replaced by a Stop sign. An obese mouse clings
precariously to the top of the octagon.
What’s it doing up there? you ask Unidentified Male Companion. Is it a titmouse? Or a
Unidentified Male Companion shrugs.
Don’t you think it’s odd? you persist. Much too Dante Gabriel Rossetti?
Should we be drinking laudanum? Exhuming our exes?
The dormouse shrieks, leaping from the Stop sign onto Unidentified Male Companion’s
head, viciously biting off chunks of his face. Horrified, you cover your eyes with your
Delicate Flower, closed captioning sneers.
A passer-by intervenes. Dormouse removed, commotion subsides. You apologize to
Unidentified Male Companion for not coming to his assistance. What happened to the
dormouse? you ask.
It’s all on film, Unidentified Male Companion says. He sounds grouchy.
It’s true, a circle of onlookers has gathered, voyeuristically documenting the spectacle
on their cell phones. One of them offers to show you, and when you look at the
playback on the tiny LCD screen, instead of the dormouse attack, you see yourself
with your friend from before, in your matching orange hunting vests. The two of you
diffidently sashay, snapping your fingers to a languid and soundless music in front of a
red, velvet curtain.
I can’t believe I’m not more upset about this, you tell the onlooker, as you watch
yourself dancing onstage in the video on the cell phone screen. Normally I can’t stand
to have my picture taken.
Lee Ann Roripaugh
Author Discusses Poems