The Heir | Andrew Coburn
Forced March | Robert Lietz
Dear Leader Dreamer | Gabriel Check
Antipastoral: Dairymen | Amy Groshek
Snapshots of the Epic | Gregory Lawless
Three Reliquaries | Laurence Davies
The Inexorable | Stefanie Freele
Travel Photography | Joshua Walker 
Post-Christmas Inventory | Laura Kolb
Cityscapes, Silos, Blue Nudes | Amber Krieger
Farming Silence | Lauren Ashleigh Kenny
Evan in the Tent | Walter Cummins
Three Poems | Grace Wells

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The Last Days of a Dear Leader Dreamer | Gabriel Check

Chaotic illusions and dreams forged by eons of split seconds spent wanting something more are all that is left of me. As the rhythmic sound of sharpening knives grows stronger being strong is not as much of an option as it once was. I hear the steel shavings tapping against one another as they steadily fall, slowing accumulating into an impending stack of inevitability that betrays no signs of sparing me the chance to enjoy what little is left of this life. 

I usually don’t have dreams of grandeur. I can count on rabid dogs chasing me, strip teases from the likes of Bela Lugosi cloaked in mechanical serpents, or, more likely, just general patchworks of blurred visions of discomfort and disappointment. In my dreams I am always a woman. While awake there is no other option and so it has been in my sleep. So when my time came to have a vision of manly power and potency I was disappointed when it came as an antiquated Asian despot in dire need of an optometrist with an eye for nuance. 

Behind these closed doors and beneath clouds of tranquilizers I discovered that Kim Jung Il lives in a big house that looks like a fancy concrete factory, and wherever he is the sun worms its way through dark heavenly clouds and finds a way to shine on him.

I was in Kim Jung Il’s body. At first I was able to understand what his reverent pages said to me. The Korean they spoke struck me as provincial and longing, but I understood. The words easily entered my ears and then were effortlessly filtered into syllables that made sense. There were people all around me in red and gray uniforms who wept when they saw me and with cautiously clenched fists they begged for mercy and sustenance. I remember looking in a lone mirror in a courtyard and being shocked at the size of my head. It was the head of a man who could never know a woman, and although I was in a dream I was still able to feel the weight of that head and the burden that the absence of femininity produces. The eyes I watched in the mirror were not these and I wonder now if there are any dreams that exist that could let me see my eyes without questioning the meaning of the body that carries them. That would be freedom. 

As I exited my compound I saw more people weep when they realized that it was really their leader. A tyrant I may have been, but I was their tyrant. After my senses grounded me, it occurred to me that I was not the man they revered or feared or whatever it is people do when they wish to remain alive in a lion’s den. The emaciated masses hid their eyes from me, and suddenly I fully realized my position as an imposter. The reckoning caused me to lose the ability to understand their language and the one I was taught since birth rushed back into my head and very suddenly everything I had learned had become woefully inadequate. For a brief moment I started to come more into my own and I immediately wanted to see what my cock looked like. 

There was no time. Aides approached me from the wings of the stage of my dream. I was sucked back in. Being addressed in this tongue now sounded harsh and in all the confusion my thoughts overflowed with fears of being discovered. I needed to run but I quickly learned that when one rules all the mountains in sight, absconding into them is not an option. The conversation around me became poisonous chatter and I flushed with fear when I realized that I didn’t know where my breasts were. I felt my chest. It was empty. All I felt were ribbons of valor, brass buttons, and thinly shrouded bones.

I woke to tattered sheets and my cot showed signs of a struggle. The nonsensical noise from the Dear Leader’s courtyard had crossed over and continued to rattle in my head. As I lay among the wreckage of reality I found that the words that I had trained myself to use when addressing the others in this place were difficult to muster without also producing an apish gurgling. I said nothing. I yearned for a drink of water but instead I lay with my head resting on the bare, cold metal of my cot and stared at the government issued sanitary napkins and thought how strange it was that they didn’t want to see my blood.

They say it won’t hurt. There are volumes of recorded logical and scientific dialogues documenting my situation and now that it is near I don’t think about opinions anymore. Instead I wander through a hypnagogic haze wondering what it is like to have absolute power and know that there is no good that can come from it. The thought of tomorrow is vertiginous, and I prefer to spend my time trying to allow my thoughts to gambol through green fields of impossibility rather than mire themselves in the carefully cultivated crops of industrial punishment. I fear that what I have done to come here is inconsequential and, even worse, in the end it is revealed with unequivocal accuracy that I am powerless. I wait for release, but until it comes, I will remain what this place has allowed me, no, no what am I saying, what it has forced me to become.

Rooted in the core of all waiting is anxiety. Whether it be terrifying anticipation or giddy front-of-the-line bouncing, there is—no matter the perceived outcome—always an unease with the future. I pace this cold ground and I am not sure if I should be more terrified of what is coming or of how much has already passed. What lies ahead has been known for so long that it is no longer mysterious. This apathy could have been predicted, but what I didn’t expect was how intimidating everything that has passed would become. All that I was—and did—now seem to me to be more like taunting accusations rather than noble accomplishments. Looking back I see figments of myself stranded on the other side of a river that continuously grows wider and wider, ever separating me and what I once was, creating a great divide much too large for me ever to be able to span and claim myself as whole. On this side, the side where time has deposited me without care in the cold riparian mist, there paces a broken circus lioness struggling to remember the hunt. And, on the other, in the foggy, dim and near-dead distance, there broods a ruthless and once powerful queen who knows that if given the chance she would—without hesitation—kill again to reclaim what was—and is—rightfully hers.


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commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | spring 2007   

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