Dream quests and journeys awake deploy different maps.
Where REM rules, downpours of amphibians
announce my unusual advent in scenes staged
both indoors and out, a Buddha-shaped messiah
emerging from an ever-present pool of pulsing
gunk. When I walk with wide open eyes, I put one
foot in front of the other without booms of thunder,
restocking Pepsi racks instead of ribbiting
resurrection requirements to lizard-faced
listeners who ate Sabbath snacks from buzzing bowls.
Beyond gates of sleep, humans and other beasts lap
sandpaper tongues over my ears, a rough seduction.
But no licks do I get while putting in my ten
behind the counter at the Redlands AM/PM.
In nearby countries unclouded by consciousness,
receding waters reveal fragrant forests of soft
barked cedars filled with wise satyrs and religious
lions, a realm molded by teen C.S. Lewis
binges needed to blank-out Assembly of God
influenced vistas where LGBTQIA
intolerant angels hover above lava
spewing lakes with sharp swords ready to cleave testes
aroused by non-hetero normative triggers.
When the Santa Anna River resets after
weeks of emergency-alert flash-flood events,
most would note minimal terrain transformation.
Concrete channels still cinch anorexic wetlands,
green scrub still necklaces the ocean-seeking flow,
but now soggy pink asbestos garlands festoon
sealed slopes, regurgitated morsels from upstream
potlucks that permitted guests to abandon the things
they brought, a shift toward a toxic hell enabled
without any particular apocalypse.
Where I earn my nine fifty and change each week,
rules of physics make the surreal far from cheap.
Biome upgrades demand more ergs than SCE
maintains in reserve. Given these constraints, chortling
cherubs won’t soon replace the basin-born devils
whose tornado torsos etch arcane signs on each
pump face, abetting eight ever-renewing eyesores
often mentioned in Yelp reviews for our station.
But Inland Empire folk can get by on less.
If missing mojo lines thru the new worlds option,
I’ll take a one-item interdimensional
inversion in lieu, a Twilight Zone switch that lets
everything stay the same except, for example,
a camera taking pictures of future sins
or a gremlin peeling back a prop-job’s steel skin.
For the flap of a scrub jay’s wing, open a door
between this timeline and one more weird containing
conquistador pirates who forgot which X marked
which spot. Let their stolen Inca and Aztec loot
drop with a mystic clank into the tin Fanta
box stashed under Mom’s royal blue hydrangeas.
Not for more pesos than Bezos. In found treasure
tales, Serling routinely told how the finder’s health
tanked when he used wealth from beyond to up his rank.
So, instead of allowing my Airbnb
scheme to become Rancho Cucamonga condo
king, ancient gold proceeds received will underwrite
free quesadillas at IE taquerias
despite absence of valid ID or address.
Better yet, credit accrued from artifact sales
can cover fees for anonymous Instagram
pleas aimed at environmentally aware kids
from overcast locales, the kind who howl about
habitat harm as they wipe off ospreys Exxon
soiled in its latest mistake, to steer their vintage
VWs to where the Santa Anna kisses
carcinogen-laden trash and begin rehab
operations for our besmirched watershed while
banging bongos to express unified ire.
Not that IE folks detest asbestos any
less than Oregon activists, but nobody
from around here desires to don a hazmat
hood in hundred degree heat, even in dreams.
A northern Los Angeles County denizen, Chuck Von Nordheim lives where the land shifts from chaparral to desert. An Honorable discharge recipient, he marches with Iraq Veterans Against the War. A Grateful Dead devotee, he endorses the healing power of tie-dye. An MFA graduate, his work appears in San Pedro River Review, November Bees, and Former People.