Around the back of the new houses, near where we live, a little girl skips rope while a boy bounces his dream against a fence. A tall man digs a hole to bury his dog, while the dog sits and watches. An old woman scrubs the dried blood from the back step, as the retired teacher undresses the headless mannequin.
Around the front of the new houses, the Sudanese refugee tastes every word that she scrubs from the wall.
The Weight That Hangs
I took my kids to watch a reenactment of the Battle
of Gettysburg; George Washington and the French
held the high ground, Cornwallis and the Redcoats
I searched for someone to complain too and found
the park manager hiding behind a peach tree.
“Historical events are always open to interpretation.”
“But the American Civil War was well documented
by both sides.” I said, “General Lee did not set up
camp in a bouncy castle and Major General Meade
did not give out free face paintings.”
“Look,” The manager said, “No-one cares about
some boring old war that happened nearly four
score hundred years ago. And absolutely no-one
wants to see Americans being mean to their
“But the Battle of Gettysburg didn’t feature an artillery
section selling funnel cake and kettle corn!”
“Well no-one knows that for certain.” The manager
said, “And besides, this carnival is about kids having
fun. Not learning that thousands of men died on some
long forgotten battlefield. That’s just depressing.”
I looked across at my kids laughing and
dancing to the music of Bob Marley on the
Stonewall Jackson Light Up Disco Dance Floor™.
“If it’s history you want,” the manager said,
“you should come back tomorrow. We’re doing
The Gettysburg Address. Except rather than recite
all those stuffy old speeches, we’re going to have
a petting zoo and pony rides.”
The manager pointed to a billboard which featured
a break dancing Abe Lincoln, spinning upside down
on his stove pipe hat.
“Now if you don’t mind,” the manager said, I’d like
to watch my favorite part of the whole war, the
senseless slaughter of General George Pickett’s
The local girl scouts brigade went parading
up the hill. On a stone wall nearby, staff from
the animal rescue center began releasing
hundreds of swallowtail butterflies.
I used to dream my own death at least once a week, when I was a bad man. I was never big time bad, never infamous or internationally sought; never more than a minor player on a very crowded stage.
In my dream, it’s bad and it’s dark. It’s always dark. For some reason, I’m waiting by the docks. I don’t know anything about docks but men are bringing their boats in and boys from the Smoke are coming to see me. I’m wearing a purple and tan sweater. It’s an ugly sweater. It’s like the sweater my old roommate used to wear. Like the one he’d leave at his girlfriend’s apartment. Like the one that was always sat on her bedroom floor.
And in my dream with the ugly sweater, I’m going over what I plan to say, when this Range Rover turns up and clips me. Then it backs up over me. This is not what I had planned, not at all. If I could get up, I could explain that it’s all some terrible misunderstanding, but the boys from the Smoke won’t stop running over me. Being ran over is a perfectly acceptable way to die but I had always pictured my own death being somewhat cooler; Cement shoes, thrown from a speeding boat, drowned in a sack.
In each new dream, my death lasts a little longer. I’ll wake up in a bed that is not my own but the sweater is there; awake, looking at me, breathing heavy on the bedroom floor.
Luke Arundel Crane is a poet living in San Diego. He is originally from England but moved to California in 2002. He is currently an MFA student at San Diego State University, where he also works as an associate editor for Poetry International