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Night Words

 after Juan Ramon 

A child wakens in a cold apartment.
The windows are frosted.
Outside he hears words rising from the streets, words he cannot understand, and then the semis gear down for the traffic light on Houston.
He sleeps again and dreams of another city on a high hill above a wide river bathed in sunlight, and the dream is his life as he will live it twenty years from now.
No, no, you say, dreams do not work that way, they function otherwise.
Perhaps in the world you're right, but on Houston tonight two men are trying to change a tire as snow gathers on their shoulders and scalds their ungloved hands.
The older one, the father, is close to tears, for he's sure his son, who's drunk, is laughing secretly at him for all his failures as a man and a father, and he is laughing to himself but because he's happy to be alone with his father as he was years ago in another life where snow never fell.
At last he slips the tire iron gently from his father's grip and kneels down in the unstained snow and unbolts the wheel while he sings of drinking a glass of wine, the black common wine of Alicante, in raw sunlight.
Now the father joins in, and the words rise between the falling flakes only to be transformed into the music spreading slowly over the oiled surface of the river that runs through every child's dreams.

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