Still Dreaming & Elsewhere

Michelle Askin

Still Dreaming

Now it’s all sorrowful and pleading litanies 
from my useless ghost-like heart and body. 
I know. But I remember what it was to move 
to a city for the first time and to be handed 
fresh towels from my landlady along 
with stories of forbidden love overshadowing 
war from her youth in Guatemala
even if it was just for a brief while. 
And then more beauty, her saying to pull 
open the white curtain by AM’s 6:30 
for the orange bulb sunrise—
like a soft balloon floating among 
polluted traffic and towers.
And I remember my first shower 
in the rusted tub, how I imagined the water 
was the night’s warm rain falling over 
the high-rise hotels and tent markets, 
where I could hear greetings and fish sales
in Arabic. Whatever was said, it sounded 
so inviting, like the swaying of those 
lilac bushes, the shifting of dogwood branches 
in the damp wind surrounding the red rowhomes 
of my boarding room. I love the memory 
of you putting the address and number 
in your yellow felt coat. By then it was February, 
and snow and bell serenades from 
the Japanese embassy drifted through the streets. 
One day we will meet again. Maybe 
on a metro rail, circling above sycamores 
and highway bridges, the one I take nightly 
just to remember what it was to be part 
of the living. And you will sit by me
in an orange seat. When we go through 
the tunnels to liquid-like trance served 
by the lonely and sincerely sad young DJs, 
inside, it will feel like stars lighting 
some new silver water-soaked galaxy.


What has been left is gone. 
Inside me now lives an orchard—
a blossom orchard surrounded by moths. 
There used to be you to talk to from time 
to time. We would take hold of a rained 
on branch & speak, or you 
kindly listened to me selfishly cry. 
My friend, what is the name of your city? 
I remember it now in orange lights 
from laundromats & Korean eateries,
that neon glow autumn leaf gold so wildly 
blowing along your district’s streets. 
Maybe, I lived there too once. These days 
I am forgetting so many things. 
And later, tonight in the faraway forest, 
fir trees wade in wind & hailstorm. 
I want to lick the wet moon. 
I want to never again pretend 
that I am better than I really am. 
I want to pretend I live in a rowboat 
along the flooded river— no paddles, 
just tender voices from the village’s 
red stone taverns & temples calling me home 
& candle lit signals in the upper rooms. 
I know none of this will be real. 
I really don’t deserve these things to be real 
anymore. But once you came into my room 
& you gave me swans & the swans were gorgeous
& the swans showed me how to swim— 
in heavy dark waves tremoring, 
just how to swim.

About the Author

Michelle Askin’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in 34th Parallel Magazine, The Tiny Journal, Pleiades, MayDay Magazine, Santa Clara Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Reston, Virginia.