A.B. Spellman

Chandani Dreams of Butterflies


last night chandani dreamed

of butterflies settling in her hand

at three in sleep she skips

through the invisible glens

of jackson heights & lifts

from space the petal-winged

creatures of air & stem


her near-first word was "moon"

she knew it from the book

& marveled for hours

that it balanced above her

the light in the night


she tells me of her dream by skype

from beneath the comforter

on her mother's bed as she deploys

her princesses against the day


          almost forty

                              whose dreams

i used to know

shares this snuggle cave with her


there must have been a time when

my dreams were innocent flicks

of flowered creatures

that fluttered above my palms

i must have discovered one night

the moon & all its mutable geometry


now in sleep i am often lost

& afraid

my dreams are polluted

with creatures chandani

has not yet met

some are political & despise me

as i despise them for the warring

worlds we want to make

others are the seepage

of the latent madness that waits

till midnight to claim my mind


i would not dream for chandani

i'd have her dream for me



In this Peculiar Light


in this peculiar light

i see no farther

than the edge

of my voice


i assign all eternal memories

to a restless grove 

a stuttering album of places

deeds & parts of you

that is vivid &

a comfort to browse

on this descending day


i begin to wonder

what you would perceive if

by some alice or dorothy

accident you slipped

& fell into the neon box

of crayons

that remembrance is

as it flashes away

in this peculiar light


i think

you'd wince at first

then turn

to me then turn


your smile would be


but well intended

& i'd count that

good enough

A.B. Spellman is an author, poet, critic, and lecturer.  His books and articles include Art Tatum: A Critical Biography (a chapbook), The Beautiful Days (poetry), and Four Lives in the Bebop Business, now available as Four Jazz Lives (University of Michigan Press).  His poetry collection, Things I Must Have Known, was published recently by Coffee House Press. He has served as poet-in-residence at Morehouse College and, at Emory, Rutgers, and Harvard Universities, taught African-American culture, modern poetry, creative writing, and jazz.  He has offered reviews and commentaries on National Public Radio's Jazz Riffs series, including the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library program.  During thirty years at the National Endowment for the Arts, he served as Director of the Expansion Arts Program then as Deputy Chairman.



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