Wing-Feather Fables: The City of Dreams


The City of Dreams insists upon its own disassembled architecture. You will notice this immediately, as you navigate a street that shifts from cobblestones to asphalt, dirt, pebbles, sand and brick, all inside of forty paces. Do not be alarmed. The City of Dreams is built from stories, layered. You will wander, disconsolate, unless you heft a chisel, drill, a hammer, nails. Enter in.

Be prepared for heavy lifting. You will stumble on a woman with a jackhammer. She is breaking up a marriage formed of fist and bruise. Help her.

You will find a bulldozer strong enough to vanquish a decade’s worth of whiskey-cast mistakes, but the key to the ignition is buried, subterranean. For that, you’ll need the excavator. Its claw will unearth memories, ghosts, and the harrowing of childhood.

Here, inside the City, you are in cahoots with possibility. Drive the dump truck. It will haul off fifteen tons of scars and insults. Do that for the children locked in closets, for the gay man beaten, for the teen with her finger down her throat.

Find the pump, industrial, that can sluice away a lake of tears. Use it for the parents standing at the gravesite. Use it in the wake of guns and crumpled steel and a doctor’s consolation.

Take the cement mixer and stuff it full of blind faith and audacious charms. Mix in effervescent hope and madcap strength and nervy, brash resolve. Push the button. Stir it up. Let it glop the soft-stuff of potential and shape it into bedrock.

Do not be afraid of heights. There are extension ladders in the City, thin tunnels of aluminum that can stretch into the skies. Climb them. Find the childhood dreams released, the ones that floated, red balloons, until they snagged upon the clouds. Use the scaffolding, the tubes and joints and boards. Build something. Make it better.

Wander into corners, too, into alleyways and dead-ends. There, a wall reveals its heart, its brickwork, small and red with mortar crumbling, behind a thin façade, whitewashed, stained and geometric. Plaster is the skin, slapped with trowels, smoothed with knives. There are many seams to pick and worry with your fingers.

The City of Dreams has its demons, yes, and they are vicious in persistence, repetitious hauntings. Sometimes, you will leave the City in a breathless gasp, a sobbing. But, inside the darkness, there is a condensation made of grace. There is mercy. It is something like a child’s palm, impressed upon a shadow. Place your own hand there, inside the seeming absence, along the jagged cracks. Touch.

The City of Dreams is made of layers. It is nothing soft. For this, you need the tools of masons, carpenters, and architects. You need the musculature of wrestlers, the fortitude of queens. The City of Dreams is made of stories, the wicked and the blessed. There is much to do. Come in. Choose your grip. Begin.

~ Photo by Brenda Gottsabend; Story by Lisa Ahn

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