Friday, May 19, 2006

The Blind Poodle's Eye



I have a dream where the moon catches fire and destroys a small European country. I think it was Monaco. A Viking, playing cards at our kitchen table, begins to smolder.

The Viking, an indistinct shape engulfed in a leather-scented fog, shuffles the deck, places the Ace of Spades over our blind poodle’s eye and laughs darkly. He never much cared for Monaco.

The phone rings. The Viking has not completed his homework, did not properly shade his fjords, and besides, it is against school rules to pillage the principal’s office. He will not be allowed to traverse the whale-road with the crest-riders, will have to keep one eye closed during the film-strip about Valhalla’s winter swans.

Smoke detector, cloud-siren, wisps of Viking curl through the ground floor, cause the family to wake. Our driveway, car-hoarder, unwanted-flyer-bed, is filled with the keening of fire fighters, their hands covered with birds. The chief, his beard itself a grey-curled cloud, climbs a ladder, shatters glass and climbs in, one stringy leg after the other. A whistle and bird shadows enter the bedroom, darken the lights, the baseball pennants, the posters of girls and guitar gods. The blind poodle begins to howl from beneath the Ace of Spades, my grandmother from beneath a shampoo-conditioner blend.

I’ve a sweatshirt halfway over my head and I bump my knee on the radio.

“Take an alternate route to the highway while you still can,” the announcer says. “Remember flowers for your mother.” The birds knock my wife into our wedding picture, and there’s confetti, but this time, it’s glass.

“Daddy, I smell axes, broadswords, and serpents of blood,” my daughter says, breaking through her door with a stump of Barbie-torso. We gather in the hallway, crouch beneath the portrait of Odin, try to remember our fire safety plan, the route to outside.

“Where’s Grandma?” we ask, but then we see her riding the swimming pool as if it were an eight-legged horse, twin wolves howling on the diving board.

“The world is a single eyebrow furrowed on the forehead of a wondrous yet forgetful God,” she says.

“My homework is my shield,” my son says. “No firefighter’s bird shall stop my path into life. I will not be sacrificed so that others can live beyond the need for memory.”

“Or to ensure the spring,” my daughter adds.

Then the fire chief is upon us, his beard bright with shrieking thunder, his eyes dark with the rumble of lightning, the stairs shaking, white stucco falling from the ceiling above. My son brandishes his geography textbook, the corners of An Introduction to Physical Geography sharp and battle ready.

“For Monaco!” he shouts and dives toward the chief. Birds flash. The knives of smoke are cruel and blood keen. My daughter brains the chief with her Barbie campervan and the sink in the upstairs bathroom overflows.

In a thousand years, where will be the teeth of my ancestors? Will there be the marks of a bright spade on the grave of my poodle? Will the same stars shine in my family’s den?

I worry for Monaco and for Vikings of smoke. The world will have shifted, changed beyond description, beyond what even An Introduction to Physical Geography can explain. Will the upstairs bathroom sink have been unplugged, the winter swans all turned to ash? Will I see the principal in a golden deckchair, surrounded by coloured fjords and pencils sharpened by students not yet born? Will the Viking warrior fizzling in a bathtub, read the Prose Edda on his PalmPilot? Will I see the birds of the firefighters nestling besides the firemen’s puppies, the fire chief’s donated organs in the small plain bodies of guitar-playing children?

I worry for the driveways, but sleep, hoping that somewhere around the bright table of heaven, my children will be the secret second Ace up the sleeve of time’s single blinkless eye.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speechless....beautiful

gary barwin said...

Thanks!

It's always a pleasure when someone stumbles onto the blog and to a piece of my writing.

Certainly it's better than when someone stumbles on my front steps.

Oeuff! they say. Oeuff!