4:2: “The nightmare hunters”, by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

4:2: “The nightmare hunters”, by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
The Group of Dreams” they’re called on the
corporate staffing chart, but they prefer
something more dashing.
It changes every few weeks,
so they just tack it up behind the orbits
of the skull. 

Ordinary steeds cannot survive in
the land of sleep; internal combustion
engines won’t start there (not reliably),
so they ride horses, horses with
three toes on each foot, or five, horses
with horns, wings, spiny projections,
tendrils, anything that will take their weight.

But they ride in search
of untamed dreams. They
first become aware of their quarry
as a flitting in the corner of the eye, an
is-something-really-there flicker,
something amiss in the tangled
shadows of desert scrub.

That is how it begins. Soon, haze
closes in from the periphery
of your vision; a haze that roils with something
you can neither see nor identify. No matter,
quite soon you will see it well enough.
Timing must be perfect.

The dreams you hunt are hunting dreams.
You feel them, the dreams that hunt you,
in your imagined fingertips, in the small
of your unreal back, you
fling the lasso with perfect
timing. You either learn fast enough
or you don’t. When
madness possesses you, and you become
a danger to yourself, those around you know
that you are lost. These dreams
aren’t gifts or warnings,
they carry no freight that you don’t bring;
they are themselves, and they are hungry.

You have to break these dreams, like wild horses,
you can’t send them out
the way you find them. When they are ready,
still redolent of the plains that bore them,
they’ll bring a good price and interesting nights.

Old dream hunters don’t retire. Like a crop duster,
you look around, if you live long enough,
in one of those bars frequented by your kind,
and you don’t see anybody who joined up
when you did. All you see are kids,
and the longer you stay the younger they get.
That’s when you quit,
if you’re smart, if you have
lived long enough to know when to
throw down your cards.

You will become a consumer of dreams;
you may at first recognize the handiwork
of someone you know. After a while,
your dreams will just be dreams,
and you just a dreamer, one who dreams,
if he is lucky, of ill-lit meadows,
and that which dwells there.



Author bio here

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