A leaf falls from a family tree, faces float by in dreams he does not recall.
An old woman stands at the podium, scowling, tapping the conductor’s stick in her hand.
A gentle pachyderm with hazel eyes reaches out to touch the young patriarch.
But he disappears again as my fingers close. I see a tiny baby that I knew from the egg, all
Sunshine and tenderness. I run alongside a boy, stretch out my hand to help him along.
But he is the only one who can love himself.
Secretary, railroad engineer, teacher, dentist, felon,
I listen to the sermon: a heartfelt attempt at conversion.
But they are only faces that float by in dreams.
Bald woman, eaten from the inside out by lung cancer.
His nose twitches at the scent of smoke and magnolia wafting through the screen door.
Cloudy memories, diluted with vodka. He sees a little girl,
Blue bow in brown tresses as she walks on the shore, holding hands
With the mother she never had. His body flinches at the sound of gunshot, then relaxes into
The loving blue eyes of his own mother. He reaches out to touch her but instead grabs
A memory of a gaggle of children, twice as many girls as boys.
One is crying when it thunders, afraid of what she cannot see. He sees faces
Muddy brown, golden, tan, alabaster, jaundice yellow, black as coal.
Young and round and perfect,
and old and wrinkled and perfect.
They are all in him, of him.
Faces that float by in dreams.
Reflective Essay by Hollie Ziskind
One of the reasons I do the work that I do as a writer and an AWA writing workshop leader, is that I have a slight obsession with connectedness: those invisible threads that bind us not only to one another, and to loved ones, both dead and alive; but also to the trees and the birds, to the homeless and the sick, to the sages and the masters, to the majestic horse and the vicious black mamba, indeed to every living thing that has ever lived, or ever will.
I believe these connections provide us all with the possibility for peace, for growth, for prosperity, for love, for abundance. It is all around us and in us, if we open our mind’s eye to see, our eternal heart to feel. After discovering an old shoe box filled with personal photos, I was inspired by my own memories and curiosities about the stories of those individuals staring back at me, and how their stories braided themselves through my own.
This process helped me to reconstruct my own ideas about connectedness and also about trauma and pain in particular – not only my own, but that of my mother, and my neighbor, and my friends, and the friends I have yet to know. And I realized my ability to see those, to see it all, as beautiful pieces of the patchwork of my life.
I wrote In Dreams as an examination of the memories we carry, the lives we have all lived, and have yet to live. I was moved, transformed by the experience. More awake to those connections than I had been before the piece. But the journey was below the surface; there but not, almost as if it had all been a dream.
About Hollie Ziskind
Born on the northern plains, I’ve lived most of my life in Memphis, where I find inspiration in flowing waters and falling leaves, among other things. In my work, I have had many iterations in pursuit of a paycheck including, but not limited to: delivery girl, journalist, caterer, consultant, detective, and tattoo artist. But I have always been a writer.
Certified two years ago in the Amherst Writers and Artists method, I facilitate writing workshops for teens and adults. I love writing with others and helping them find their creative voices. I also knit, paint and collage when possible. Mother of two boys, 10 and 5, we hunt for talking animals and magical stones during the day and slay dragons at night. In my next life, I will write more, and sleep.
For now, I am a yogi-mother-artist-consultant-poetess-teacher-writer-and-lover-of-the-living-world; healing, awakening, transforming.