Dream landscape at the edge of this world

“As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport.”
~ Shakespeare (“King Lear,” Act 4, scene 1)

What to make of a dream in which
fields are littered with decapitated
remains, the sightless heads of the fallen
in even rows tilted up at the sky, their hair
matted with dried blood yet somehow
artfully arranged like fringes of grotesque
sunflowers? What to make of the pair of us,
winding hand in hand through grounds
made slick with the issue from these bodies,
the air rank and thick with flies? You were
frailer than I ever remembered, slight
in a thin cotton wrapper, undone by
the terrible waste surrounding us. I led
as if now the parent and you the child,
feeling as if somehow I’d been there before,
winding through maze-like paths flanked
by hedges made of reeds whose ends
were quilled blades. Ahead, an armored
shape emerged from out of its cave; I stayed
our progress, trembling in the crosshatches.
What might we do if we had plumes or wings?
And yet on every side, the puce from doves’
breasts dripped warnings on the rocks. Bent low
to the ground, at last we found our way to where
a dying sentinel stood guard at the edge of this
world: he dipped his finger in his blood and marked
our heads; then pointed out the exit in the distance.

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