Pursuing a dream is hard. It can at times be miserable, confusing, overwhelming work. I appreciate the phrase “chasing a dream,” because many times that’s how it feels. Plus, a dream can take on many forms. Dreams are shape-shifters; they’ll show up anywhere and grab a hold of you.
I’m a fan of paying attention to one’s dreams — to holding them in your hand and turning them over — that is, if you can catch one. Dreams aren’t only shape-shifters, they’re snitches too, and chasing one is often like playing an internal game of Quidditch.
But I’m also a fan of escape routes. I’m not suggesting turning your back on a dream. I don’t think that’s possible. But rather, finding a place to go and be where dreams aren’t as (shall I say) aggressive. For me, it’s bookstores and libraries, and I suppose for a writer that would make sense, but I came to the love of reading late. I’ve always loved stories, but reading, for several years of my life, always felt like a chore. And I don’t mean a Snow White let’s-make-this-bachelor-cabin-you-weird-dwarves-are-living-in-beautiful-and-cozy kind of chore. I’m talking about scrubbing-the-toilet kind of chore.
Now I love to read. I love to be lost in a book. I love to struggle with words and wrestle with a story, and so wandering around a library or a bookstore is a reminder to me that while dreams can be nasty little buggers, they are ours, and they will wait to be caught.
Lettered Creatures, written by Brad Leithauser and illustrated by Mark Leithauser, is one of the treasures I found on an escape to a bookstore. In it, the illustrator takes a letter of the alphabet and creates an animal from it so that the letter is disguised or — even better — showing itself in a different way. The poet uses what he calls “light verse” to write a poem about what we see on the page.
I love the poem “Lionfish,” about not needing a big occasion to get dressed up. That in fact, these fish are so confident it makes no difference what they’re wearing. Like a dream, their presence is all that matters.
The pride of lionfish resides
In our cool, gliding confidence
That there is no conceivable occasion—
No big school dance,
No pirates’ feast or pilots’ fest,
No fancy ball to benefit the tides,
No Grand Opening of a brand-new ocean—
For which we’re underdressed.
Write a poem about what your dream looks like. Dress it up. Turn it into a shape-shifter. Create a character out of this thing that glides alongside you, waiting to be caught.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Kimberly that we enjoyed: