Ruben Reflects on the Difference Between Dreams and Reality While Working the Day Shift” by Chuck Von Nordheim

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.

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