The Field Animal’s Dream

It does not think of the boy’s bird screech and water pistol, the girl’s pas de deux and pursed lips. They batter each other’s head with flattened palms. A grandmother peers between the crack in red Naugahyde seats, wizened as in a fairy tale as if something in the children’s play is wrong, illicit, something to be rebuked.

Buried in a shell of sand, a girl is an exquisite tortoise like the first photograph made in historical time before the ceremony of innocence is drowned.

What is the field animal’s dream? Is it me, a cud in a cow’s teeth? Behind the limestone karst, another and another and another.

Is this the limestone’s dream, sediment and solidity outlasting us, as though it is the body’s doors of dan tien through which chi flows as the sea is artificer of sand-glyphs?

The string of green lights glimmer in a pre-dawn republic of dark grain. The karsts, the squid boats, have not emerged. The sun has not birthed them. If all is flux, I am a fish disguised as stone.

The field animal is dreaming. It will dream us into the next sleep. Eyelids of morning flutter. The silver bells of the flowers ring.

Richard Oyama

What is the significance of this work to you?

I was on a bus to Prachuap Khiri Khan in southern Thailand and saw a succession of road signs that became the poem's title. It became an occasion to shift from an anthropocentric perspective and consider other modes of being like Chuang Tzu's butterfly dream.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I've always thought that genre distinctions are somewhat arbitrary. Both Joyce and Faulkner began as poets, but found their poetry in prose. Since the prose poem is made of sentences, it may have the semblance of narrative, but can achieve quite other effects. Carolyn Forché's "The Colonel" is a prose poem that has had a huge impact on me.

What was the process for creating this work?

As with all my poems, "The Field Animal's Dream" went through multiple drafts, which I liken to a process of layering and accretion. Denise Levertov uses the term "organic form." The poem seeks its own form. Beyond that, I don't have much memory of the process other than vision and revision, seeing and reseeing. The iterations took a year as I worked on other projects and lived with the poem.

Richard Oyama’s work has appeared in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Breaking Silence, Dissident Song, A Gift of Tongues, About Place, Konch Magazine, Pirene’s Fountain, Tribes, Malpais Review, Anak Sastra and other literary journals. The Country They Know (Neuma Books 2005) is his first collection of poetry. He has a M.A. in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Oyama taught at California College of Arts in Oakland, University of California at Berkeley and University of New Mexico. His first novel in a trilogy, A Riot Goin’ On, is forthcoming.

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