[ the first non-death dream /// re-dreamt ]
J.A. Tyler

I don't know if I'm sleeping here or only dying and then coming back alive.
In these woods, where I am searching for my deer brother, disbelieving his message of death, this is a death-dream. A death-dream is what I wake into. A death-dream is purgatory. I've opened up foxes, worn their skin as my skin. I've bled bears. I've built houses in the sky where birds drifted. I've built houses in a lake and sank upward with fish. None of them are brothers and my brother is deer-gone, the note he delivered when I first woke to this death-dream was a black spot on white paper. The moment I began dying.
In these woods, there is nothing simple.
Between death-dreams I have non-death dreams. The first non-death dream I had was of waking in Antarctica, my lips going blue. There was ice and penguins. I was shaking. I woke into a death-dream half-buried in the cold ground, a patch of birds chattering in the branches above me, the mocking ghost-outlines of my brother's deer-daughters knitting their death-blankets with pale hands.
In the first non-death dream my veins were blue, the sky was white and the penguins faded into stalks of trees. When I re-dream this, when I close my eyes and die again, I will change the penguins to deer, make them a stand of hooves holding still around my body, and I will know that they are my deer-brothers, that they want me to live, that in their mouths or hooves there is no message of death waiting to be yawned. I will change the sky to sunrise and it will bruise my heart with warmth. The sun will open and my skin will glow. I won't wake half-buried in the ground but half-unburied from this purgatory, this hide-and-seek that my deer-brother and I are playing in these lost woods.
I will re-dream this first non-death dream and wake into almost being alive.