Brad Buchanan – Recurrent Dreams of Flight

Brad Buchanan LE P&W April 2019

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Recurrent Dreams of Flight, poems by Brad Buchanan

Brad Buchanan’s writings have appeared in nearly 200 journals, and he has also published two book-length collections of poetry: The Miracle Shirker (2005) and Swimming the Mirror: Poems for My Daughter (2008), as well as two academic books. His third book of poetry, The Scars, Aligned (A Cancer Narrative), is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. He has recently written blog entries for Poets & Writers (on his Writing As Healing Workshop and (on EMDR and writing about remission He was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in February 2015, and underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016, which involved temporary vision loss. He kept a blog during his cancer treatments which can be viewed at He is currently in remission.

Recurrent Dreams of Flight

I am somehow getting better
if not in a general way
at this particular discipline:
I am improving my nighttime trajectories
with a lucid awareness that bad dreams
can be repurposed as superpowers
in the tiniest sleepless hours
yes, you can make yourself feel like you’re flying
if you know how to remember the airplanes
you used to pretend that you were becoming
on the playground, veering at girlfriends
you only wanted to chase you down
and pummel you lovingly
you can discover wings
hiding under pillowcases
you can make your bed the whole sky
as long you aren’t afraid to plummet
into the ocean at any moment
utter a lifetime’s prayer in an instant
and wake to the death
you dared
defiant and weightless
in that forgotten element

On “Cheating Death”

I gave it the squarest deal I could
a lengthy opportunity
to cash in at the roulette wheel
or the slot machine
where the coins poured out
for countless others.
I nearly went bankrupt
feeding it chips
but somehow missed
the expected payout.
I even reserved
a special chair
at the blackjack table;
I wore my best casino suit
and daylong shades;
I doubled down
on my chamber pot,
came up with the same old
four-flushing farts
in my adult diapers;
I lost all shame
and bathroom manners
but somehow
every game was rigged.
I did not cheat death;
it cheated me
of my rightful
valedictory bucketful
of spoils from the place
with no clocks or natural light,
where the dutiful croupier
kept his thumb on the button
to ensure that the longest odds
were also the most agonizing ones;
inevitably, they favored the house
and made my bad beat
feel even worse.

The Lost Massages

I don’t miss most of the things
my fingers just can’t do anymore
but the simple act of rubbing your neck
until you made that little sound
whatever it was: a gasp, a murmur
a gentle exhalation
a not unsexy grunt of assent
an unforced moan of encouragement
I regret that I can’t seem to manage that
perhaps I no longer trust my strength
of will and sinew to see it through
or maybe I don’t dare to try your patience
when you look away
with an aching back
or heart
maybe this is the first form
of departure
death or divorce
and I wouldn’t care which
but no
I will mourn that unreachable touch
with the rest of my life
I will scrub every dish with clumsy fervor
and hope you’ll approve
of the awkward ways in which I move
towards a different comfort together
I will remain the weaker partner
if you will only forgive all the lost
massages my hands refuse
I may curse myself
and the wasting disease
that keeps me inert
but I will never leave

The Day I Took No Medication

On the day I took no medication
nothing terrible actually happened
that hadn’t occurred a million times before:
the poor, imprisoned by endless war,
soiled their threadbare comforts with fear;
the great renewed their compulsive demands
for an obscure austerity in everyone else;
the sick were treated and mistreated
according to the latest accepted
well- or not well-intentioned malpractice;
the pills and liquids that held me hostage
let me out for a breath of fresh air
and even took off the blindfold for
a few blurry photogenic moments
later to be used in yet more ransom notes
from the underground;
the nonstop propaganda of pain
continued, of course, spreading lies around
my publicized, politicized body.
By the time all the opiates had worn off
there were no sensations left
except for the traces of self-contradiction
at the core of my organism,
the indivisible self that holds
despite the nakedness of its disease,
the self-evidence of its polarized
and warring factions, the rift it denies.

A Ways Away

Distance becomes a plural noun
as soon as our mind’s eye lingers upon
the spatio-temporal continuum.

One estimate of proximity implies another
as though a sundial fragmented the sky
in moving its point like a snail over sand.

Duration beckons with a succession
of tiny gestures, perspectives that bend
and shuffle like feathers or sliding doors.

What we see approaching is measured in hours
and minutes to wait, or in seconds to impact.

The speed of light is too exact and impossible;
we can only relate each fearfully emergent event
in a fractured sequence, one stunted sentence
after another.
The long horizon might as well
be infinity as far as chronology is concerned;
we have to humanize its pace
in the faces of clocks that delimit our life

The Talking Cure

before the words
a desire to say
something profound
obtrudes, intrudes, I meant
but obscurely, obsessively
before the truth comes out
there is all holy hell
of abstractions
raging reasons
blame for those silences
nothing more
to be specified anyway
everything obvious
obsolete already
in our made-up minds
because there are too many
ghosts to name only the one
but that resignation too is wrong
and finally what you know
needs to be heard
that we could not save
somebody you loved
more than anyone knew
more than she deserved
more than you could stand
to admit out loud
but now speak of urgently
face in your hands
bursting with mourning
that we never dreamed
was possible since
she was lost long before
but now we know
that maybe we could have
that it was possible
if only in some
unbelievable way
with a method
she would never approve
to rescue her
somehow with our
helpless love

© Brad Buchanan