back toJacket2

Jacket 19 — October 2002   |   # 19  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |
This issue of Jacket is a collaboration with Verse magazine

James Harms

My Dream of Bob Marley

For years I’ve put the end at the end,
as if what he said meant something more
for coming so close to silence. But silence
was the point, two quiet streams heading
down the mountain through jungles so empty
the trees held the wind in their leaves just to
hear a sound like whispers, as if nature,
when it comes right down to it, misses us
as we will miss it some day. But it
was a dream: dream jungle, dream wind,
dream dog, dream Marley.

    When Walt wishes for a dog
    he describes an animal part alligator
    and part sheep, with feathers like
    a peacock and eyes the same color
    as his sister’s: a blue bordering on
    sapphire, a blue so deep you know
    she’ll be trouble in fifteen years.
    He will call this dog Blue after
    the cartoon on television (not
    the eyes), though I suggest Yellow
    after a movie he’s never seen.  
But Walt says, No. Blue.

I woke from the dream four mornings
in a row and each morning was a dream itself:
January skies as blue as an old woman’s
hair, the strangely warm breezes blowing up
my neck like the breath preceding a kiss.
In the clearing in the dream, he tended
the fire and boiled water in a beaten pan.

    My father raised collies as a boy.
    One of them appeared on the front  
    of a cereal box for saving a child
     from a rattlesnake. With fame now
    out of the question — used up by his
    favorite dog — and bravery just as
    unlikely, my father became
    an Episcopal minister and left
    at sun-up each morning to write
    sermons or jog or visit the hospitals
    before his office hours began at nine.  
    My mother, over breakfast, never told
    us her dreams, just that they started
    at dawn and stopped when one of us
    called out for help in the bathroom.

When the dog enters the campsite,
trotting with purpose, as most starving
animals do, a dog so filthy it threatens
to make the air unbreathable, the dust
rising off its coat like steam from a wet
horse in winter, when the dog finally
makes its appearance, Bob Marley looks up
from the fire he’s prodding with a leafy stick.
And here’s the end, helplessly last, as usual:
Marley points the burning branch at the dog,
sitting now at the edge of the clearing.  
‘You must wash that white dog,’ he says.  
And I wake up. I understand the dog, and
what it means that I should wash it. But
why Marley? My friend Lou says I should
be glad it’s not Wayne Newtown and go back
to bed. But what would Wayne be doing
in a jungle? And why the leaves, why
the fire? My wife says, You’re just hungry,
go to sleep. And that makes sense.

    Phoebe is convinced that spinach
    is a type of yogurt, and she will
    sing in her highchair with spinach
    in her hair and in her ears and up
    her nose until the last pureed drip
    of it falls into her lap. ‘Yogurt,’
    she will say, as if naming the meal
    now that it’s gone will change its
    chemistry or its reputation, will
    sweeten the very soil in which its grown.

But I’m not hungry. I think I dream of
Bob Marley because he is so irretrievably
gone. And no matter how hard I scrub,
that dog is never coming clean, never changing
back to what I can’t see in the dream:
a white dog with a rattlesnake in his teeth,
hungrier than I will ever be, and just a dream.
Phoebe sleeps on into the named night,
her brother across the room; there is no bravery
in the world enough to ensure anything.

Jacket 19 — October 2002  Contents page
Select other issues of the magazine from the | Jacket catalog | read about Jacket |
Other links: | top | homepage | bookstores | literary links | internet design |
Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that this material is copyright. It is made available here without charge for personal use only. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose

This material is copyright © James Harms and Jacket magazine 2002
The URL address of this page is