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By Cindy Hochman
As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.
—Isidore Ducasse (also known as the Comte de Lautrémont)
Most of my nights are oddly dreamless, but every once in a while Morpheus does show up, wearing a crisp white toga-style nightshirt and bearing (beware of Greeks bearing ...) stardust & moondust and a whole tinderbox of phantasmagoric figments, no doubt pilfered from the clandestine closet of his secret lover Pandora. I should have told you at the outset that hanging directly above my no-poster bed there’s a painting I bought on Amazon, and don’t you dare laugh at my lowbrow artistic tastes. This admittedly cheap but beloved triptych of mine depicts four red umbrellas haphazardly strewn on the gray-and-black cobblestone ground in front of the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps the god of dreams had just returned from Paris, although, according to Merriam & Webster, both dead, the origin of the word umbrella is Italian, not French (ombrella) and, besides, Morpheus probably spends his vacays aboard a yacht on the island of Crete, or hanging out with Zeus atop Mount Olympus. And now let me finally get to the point of this poem. While I was in euphoric dreamland, Morpheus gifted me with an umbrella. Not like the one in Mary Poppins, with a stern but whimsical nanny attached precariously to the end of it, gliding down way too slowly from the English sky. Just a plain old umbrella, with no fancy cursive lettering of designer names like Burberry or Bloomingdale’s or even Haring or Warhol. Something more akin to those flimsy black umbrellas you buy for five bucks on the street when you notice from your grime-streaked office window that it has, rather inconveniently, begun to rain just as you’re about to leave the building and head home. Sadly, there was no sewing machine or dissecting table in Morpheus’s footlocker. Just a lone, and possibly phallic, if, like Freud, you happen to believe that all dreams come straight from the id, umbrella, perfect for shielding oneself from torrential downpours and/or strict but melodious au pairs. As for keeping us safe from Omicron (also Greek, by the way) and its stubborn variants, umbrellas are pretty darn useless. So next time I happen to encounter Mr. Morpheus during some foggy, fitful, and fanciful night, I’m planning to read him the Riot Act, in Greek, of course—though I may as well keep that Trojan horse of an umbrella for the proverbial rainy day.
Author note: I wasn’t joking about the cheap artwork from Amazon. Here it is
Cindy Hochman is the president of "100 Proof" Copyediting Services and the editor-in-chief of the online poetry journal FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST. She resides in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York, where she meditates, studies the Russian language, and learns tai chi. She is very proud that her latest chapbook, TELLING YOU EVERYTHING, has been published by Unleash Press.