Dreams are Poems: Abby Mahler


I had just graduated high school and was back home in Southern California. It was the end of the summer, so band camp was in full swing at my high school. I was in the thick of it- there with my mother, assisting in sewing uniforms and coaching the clarinets. At one point she saw me with my bass clarinet around my neck, playing with the high school clarinetists, and she said, "I forgot how good at that you were, you should do this again!" and I said  "No, please, I don't want to do that." She did not seem to care and started talking to herself-- "I wonder how much money it would take for your old band director to let you back in the band?" She then went to the band director, got out her checkbook, and started bartering with him; she wrote larger and larger checks, and finally got up to three thousand dollars. While this check writing was happening I had started to scream, "NO. NO STOP. I DON'T WANT THIS. I HATE IT HERE. I AM JUST HERE TO HELP BC YOU ASKED ME TO." But it was like there was this wall around me, and no one could hear me scream. Except one person could: my ex-girlfriend, who did not go to high school with me, was in my high school band room. She stared and stared as I screamed and wept and cried to no avail. At the end of the dream I angrily put my bass clarinet away and stormed out of the band room, and no one saw but her. She did not seem to care that any of it was happening, but she was the only one who knew my pain occurred at all.


The dream begins with the goodness of the dreamer’s heart – the dreamer is doing something they love. Helping, teaching. The dreamer’s mother is present and they share these duties, working together. 

As the dreamer instructs younger clarinetists, the mother’s pride swells. The mother’s pride becomes a mother’s pressure. The mother wants the dreamer to play, to return to the band, to be younger, to be good. The dreamer resists. The dreamer has no interest. But mother knows best and mother knows money talks. 

While the mother barters increasingly large sums with the band director, the dreamer’s anxiety spikes. Not only is the mother’s help unwanted, so is her money. The dreamer tries to use their voice but the mother does not listen. The voice escalates. The voice screams. It goes unheard, except by one. 

A former lover observes the scene in silence. Though apathetic to the drama of the dream, the ex girlfriend stands as a witness to pain, and though she does not seek to comfort the dreamer, perhaps her presence is comfort enough – she sees what the dreamer sees. 

The dreamer is able to escape the situation of their own volition. This dream is wrapped in thick layers of familial expectation, personal will, and financial dependence/independence. Navigating these layers, pulling them back, is a difficult task. It is frustrating. It’s ok to storm out of the room when you can’t take it anymore.



Katie Foster is a poet/witch living in Denver. She recently graduated from Bennington College, where she studied literature and French, met some ghosts, and honed her magic. Her first book, Animal Problems, was published by Electric Cereal in June 2015. Want your dream interpreted by Katie? Check out the Dreams are Poems guidelines here