The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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Beauty is about the improbable coming true suddenly.
— Charles Simic
Cats dream of flying, and of each other. Though they are light sleepers, their dreams have a complexity, and may have recurrent themes. Cats’ dreams are like collages, but are not surreal. They have special effects, like slow motion, sophisticated nuances in lighting, and reverberant sound. Cats’ dreams can be multilingual, poetic, unclassifiable. Cats dream with their whole bodies and have a hundred words for “dream.” A hundred words, and counting.
Dogs dream of water but more often of men. Men’s feet and shins and crotches, men’s broad hands. Dogs dream that their men will leave them, or dream that they are coming home. They dream in color but with the clarity of black and white. When they wake from a dream, dogs are confused, briefly, but shake it off, as though emerging from a bath. In less than a minute, even the most lovely dream is forgotten, leaving open the very question as to what dogs dream.
The starfish dreams of cartwheeling to the moon. The starfish desires the “geographical cure”; love has wounded the starfish’s heart, and no ocean can heal it. “I’d give my left arm,” the starfish says, but it will take more than that. It takes much more than that, so the starfish dreams of arms regenerating forever, a ladder of arms to climb up to the sky.
Skunks’ dreams are devotional. They dream of altars and holy water, of saints who bathe the feet of lepers. The captured skunk dreams of its cage resting on a bank of clean snow: an empty cathedral.
The giraffe dreams of dexterity, a whole boulevard of giraffes sitting in recliners or perched on stools playing twelve-string guitars. An Olympic-size swimming pool full of giraffes doing the butterfly stroke. In the dream of the adolescent giraffe, all things exhibit their inherent awkwardness: the cello, the cellar steps, throw pillows, girl/girl sex. The giraffe is out there, but not alone.
Doves dream of the magic act called marriage. The disappearing act called happiness. Last night: of flying over an alley full of cats. Feathers floated down. The little mouths yawned open, swallowed them whole — while the doves prayed, Choke.
Bats’ dreams are all about sex. Coupling and uncoupling, wings spread like wedding tents, umbrellas parasoled over the heads of pretty boys. The sound of wings, fast — lines of penmanship exploding in the sky.
How has it come to this? How has it come to this?
The polar bear’s a literalist. She dreams of cubs, yellow bulks, homage to her. She dreams of seal meat, seal eyes losing their luster, the exact delectable smell of seal, the precise sound of seal, five hundred yards to the east, five feet below the surface. All her dreams are of concealment and revelation. The wind whistles at the caverns of her ears as though to mimic the wet, bleak, quick death cries.
Cows dream of grasses and speed. Though perceived as lazy, they have active interior lives, as evidenced by the sadness in their eyes. Grazing can become burdensome, less a pleasure than an obligation, yet they dream of the perfect field. Overgrown sweet grass, canopies of shade trees, bird song from a distance. The faint, faint smell of a clear stream. Bees but no flies, and a breeze that cools the flanks. Cows dream of a mild wind that sends pangs through the high grass, like pangs of regret in the heart of the cow who dreams of a horse, a horse at a gallop in an adjacent field.
Horses’ dreams are strenuous and brief, like a well-run quarter mile. Or sensuous — the dream of forelimbs and haunches kneaded by hands. They dream of swimming and wake startled, ashamed. They dream of racing without obstacle, as though in the sky. But upon waking, horses believe unreservedly that being earthbound is a blessing.