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On the Night Ride Home

Dreamed 1971/11/8 by Chris Wayan

Night. I'm biking home. On the way
I see a couple trying to sacrifice a rodent
to the Evening Star.

Pause in the archway of a villa to hand
a British child four stones: jade, jasper,
turquoise, alabaster.

Lit diner. A homecoming feast for a star
traveler who displays lobed things
fluorescing chartreuse, pink,
blue, white.

In the restaurant's far wing, a party of fire
fighters--a team of fame--salutes the first
rat to pass the test.

Some hold to the old cruelty, see a beast;
others will credit your steps far past

Rat looks at a star. Dream sketch by Wayan.


Deep change is slow. In 1971, I saw this dream as an atmospheric nocturne of unclear meaning--though I sensed the Return of the Rat was the key to it. Only now, casting it as a poem, do I see it's about how contradictory social feedback can be--a warning you can't assume everyone will give you a fair chance--nor that will everyone see you as a mere thing, a sacrifice. Bias, whether racism, sexism or (as here) specism, varies. It's even true of your own judgments on yourself--you diss and condemn some mousy side of you until, after that same part works hard to master a new skill, you're forced to admit (despite your own prejudice) that you've made a breakthrough. The rat's a hero.

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