In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • How Long Before You Go Dry
  • Alex Lemon (bio)

[T]he past is not closed, it receives meaning from our present actions.

- Czesław Miłosz


When I’m whipped awake, stripped from my dreaming, it is deep in the blackest humming of the Texas night. Wide-eyed, I blink around at the strangeness of being suddenly awake—the scream I heard in my dream echoing distantly inside me. It’s 2:11 a.m. I’m wonderfully tangled around my wife in our bed—starfishing her slumbering body—one leg arrowing out of the sheets so I don’t overheat. Ariane a mummy under the blankets, motionless. Catface asleep on her feet. A second passes and then from his bedroom, I hear my sleeping boy shriek. It is a still-dreaming squawk—one that shatters the dark. A low moan burbles, gets louder and louder, and then a guttural yowl shakes the purpling ceiling above me and Felix’s howling finds shape: Mama! Dada! Mama! Dada! [End Page 119]

Call me old school—I still believe that dreams can be been seen as omens, portents of what the future might hold. Throughout history, dreams have been associated with prophecy. Scientific puzzles have been answered in the beautifully strange worlds that blossom when we close our eyes—the secrets of neurotransmitters, benzene, Descartes’ scientific method, the logic behind Mendeleev’s periodic table. Montaigne thought our true thoughts opened in dreams—all the darkness we don’t want anyone to know we have within us. During dreams, Freud believed that the ego’s defenses are lowered, allowing fragments of repressed memories to surface—so in my sleep, I see again and again the terrible things that have happened to me.

When I glide off into the nothingness of my sleep, behind my shuddering eyelids, I see so much: A half-finished chess game, the pieces alive, the knight rearing, queen bowing, or the pieces replaced by fingertips, eyeballs, nipples. An enormous octagonal tent woven from striped neckties and panties. A tiered layer cake with an entire layer missing—the top cake somehow still afloat with a knuckle-rolling baby hand adorning it. The sister of one of my best friends, topless, sprinting right at me—closer and closer until she whooshes through me, the wheelchair I am sitting in like I am a ghost, like I am not even there. Packs of gum that I cannot lift, lever from the boxes they’re stacked inside as if they’ve been glued in place or weigh a ton—the gas station attendant just shrugging when I look to him for help. A handful of nails thrown into the air, and, instead of the nails, tooth after tooth floating to the ground. The number eleven. A row of bodiless heads being shaved. A baseball unstitching itself in my hand. A steel-headed rake tangled with snakes. A nurse, reaching a silver flash of metal toward my mouth and then my brain surgeon leaning his hot breath down. A whitewall tire rolling down the night street. An overturned gas can, an endless parade of mice slinking out of it. The postman—waving as he walks up Stadium Avenue—wearing nothing but his satchel of letters. An orchid, ablaze. [End Page 120]

I dream about my past lives. I dream about lives that I have not lived. I dream about lives that I will never be able to live.

Smoke crows up from each of the temple’s ghats, the cremation platforms raised a dozen feet above the Bagmati River. Each ghat is a stone table, fluttering an orange bonfire. Inside each I see a body crumbling, curling smaller and smaller. It is 2001 and I am twenty-one, and for the third day in a row I am at Pashupatinath Temple—one of the most important Hindu temples in Kathmandu, Nepal. I squat at the top of the stone steps across the river from the bigger, busier side of the temple’s pagodas, across the river from the burning bodies. I crouch like a catcher behind home plate and watch until my legs go numb, then stand and walk down to the wall...