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The Stuff of Life

by Ken Sanes

After the children finally fall asleep,
you drift off into the fragmented images
and half-formed experience of dreams.
Absorbed in this obscure mental state,
your memories of the day begin to combine
with fantastic products of the imagination
and, as you descend further into sleep,
your chest rising and falling in a natural rhythm,
your dreams take on a life of their own.
It is as if you are living a hundred lives,
broken into parts, as the bits and pieces
of these vivid hallucinations come to life
in the reduced spotlight of the inattentive mind.
Then, at long last, sunlight streams in,
providing illumination to dark corners
as the self is once again awake to the world.
It is morning – with another fresh start –
and as you look out at the beckoning day,
you see your neighbor, Howard, waiting
for the carpool ride that takes him to the office,
buttoned up to the neck in a dark suit and tie.
One lawn down, a bus is picking up children
who laugh and push as they get on board,
while the school bus driver is screaming,
and they try to form the semblance of a line.
Then a young deer bounds across the lawn
as white birds ascend on extended wings,
rising and falling in the ash gray sky.
You wiggle your toes to make sure you can –
and no this isn’t a dream, this is the world.
But if your rational common sense self
sits on top of a kaleidoscope of dreams,
and reverts back when its guard is down,
then could this be who you really are –
or worse, could this actually be the world –
a scatter of bits and pieces without sense,
furnished with the illusion of coherence
by the spontaneous activity of the waking mind?
Is this the truth about love and 9-to-5,
with the carpool following a regular route
from home to home to home to office,
and then from office to home to home to home,
and the phenomenon we refer to as Howard
priming himself for a difficult sales meeting
or anticipating a cheese danish at 10 AM,
as if it all hangs together as a world
and not just the juxtaposed bits of a jumble –
Howard and you and the prospect of pastry,
with preposterous cream and a regular coffee
because you need the caffeine to stay awake
while you wait for the bus, all buttoned up,
and a young deer bounds across the lawn,
spinning out versions of a coherent life.
But, no, you’re certain that it makes sense –
somehow – despite all the disorder in the dark.
And there is certainly a mind to make sense of it,
and yes it is almost certainly awake right now.
Even so, it is the collective task of each of us
to ensure that it continues to hang together,
and give the world coherence and meaning,
without getting lost in the bits and pieces
of an endless sleep that is the stuff of dreams.

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