“Now is life very solid or very shifting? I am haunted by the two contradictions. This has gone on for ever; will last for ever; goes down to the bottom of the world—this moment I stand on.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 4 January 1929

Sparrows on the Berlin Wall, 1962
by Paul Schutzer


“Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Burnt Norton”

Sunday, early afternoon. Partly cloudy, high 40’s.

Last night I had the fighter pilot dream again: I am a trained fighter pilot, one of a few women in a mostly male squadron. I am going somewhere, but I haven’t been in the plane for a while, so I’ve forgotten some things. I am secretly married to one of the pilots in the squadron, but I am in love with another one. This conflict makes it hard for me to fly. I have a poison dart somewhere, but I’ve forgotten where I’ve put it. We stop for a moment to remember a pilot who has died, each of us quietly touching the spot of ground on which his blood was shed. Then we are off somewhere, I can’t remember where. I know there is a deep part of the ocean over which we fly, and we all know that there is a secret in the water below us. Each of us wants to be the one to find it. The squadron leader asks me to show him that my wrist is strong enough to fly. I lift something and pretend that it doesn’t hurt. He sees the lie but lets it go. I want to be the one in the graduation ceremony to do the demonstration flight, the one with all of the inverted loops and tricks. I want that to be me, not the other woman who has joined the squadron, but I keep this need to myself. Only the man I love knows how much this means to me. He tries to help me remember how to fly the plane, helps me with my pre-flight check, makes sure I look at the essential things before taking off. I am jealous when he shows the new woman how to set up her oxygen, but he looks at me and smiles, and I know that he is just being the good pilot that he is, taking care of his other squadron members. Then I remember that I have not hooked up my oxygen.

The dream shifts, and I am working somewhere else. Another woman and I go into a store before opening in search of something. The store manager, a client, comes up and says that we have to get out, but that she will be watching us. I go to my boss’s office. His wife is there, and she is distraught. She asks me not to tell anyone that she had been there. She leaves before I can say anything. I know that she is upset because everyone knows that her husband is having an affair. My boss comes in and asks me what I’m doing in his office. I tell him about the client/manager and what she has threatened. He shakes his head in disbelief and tells me that we are trying to help them, wonders why they are being so combative. I tell him it’s because they are hiding something.

The dream shifts, and someone is arranging black olives on a vegetable tray. I’m trying to remove the slices of pepperoni from the tray, and he keeps putting them back on. I walk away in disgust.

I realize that I’m writing the wrong story.

Music by M. Ward, “There’s A Key”



These anonymous
leaves, their wet
bodies pressed
against the window

or falling past—
I count them
in my sleep,
absolving gravity,

absolving even death
who knows as I do
the imperatives
of the season.

Linda Pastan, from “The Months