The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2018

All Issues
JUL-AUG 2018 Issue

Mathias Svalina’s Dream Delivery Service

With the Dream Delivery Service I take new subscribers and, every day for a month, I write and deliver dreams to them. To subscribers in the city I’m in, I deliver the dreams before dawn via bike; to subscribers residing further away, I mail the dreams.

I will be running the Dream Delivery Service in Brooklyn from 7/16-8/16. To kick-off the Dream Delivery Service in Brooklyn I'll be reading at Berls Brooklyn Poetry Shop on 7/15 at 4pm, with Heather Green, whose brand new translation of Tristan Tzara’s Noontimes Won is just out from Octopus Books. Subscriptions & gift subscriptions to the Dream Delivery Service are available at


A Few Previously Delivered Dreams


You are standing beside train tracks on an empty city street at night. A young man with an old man's white mustache walks up to you. Have you seen my car? the young man with the old man's mustache says. I don't know what your car looks like, you said. You look around. There is only one car parked on the street. Is that your car? you say & point at the solitary car. The young man with the old man's mustache turns & when he sees the cars & gives a squeal of delight & hops into the air. Thank you! he says & runs to the car. He opens the car door & thousands of tennis balls fall out, bouncing loudly on the quiet street like tiny explosions. The young man with the old man's mustache looks up at you, embarrassed by all the tennis balls pouring out of his car. You shrug your shoulders & smile as if to say These things happen. The man smiles back at you, reassured. These things do happen. Most of what we call life is these things. The man drives off, leaving thousands of tennis balls rolling around the street. You hear a train whistle & the grinding roar of an approaching train. The train rushes down the tracks, shaking & scattering the tennis balls. The train’s wake pulls the tennis balls up into the air, where they bounce & dangle on the train’s wind like the bits of glittering white stuff inside a snowglobe.


You are on the beach, on the island where you live. It is beautiful, the sun shining, the ocean lapping the sand, but there has been the most terrible storm overnight: the ground is littered with broken trees & debris, the houses have all been flattened. Your house, which you devoted so much to building, which held so much of who you are, is simply gone. Somehow, despite this wreckage, everyone got out safe, no one was harmed. It’s a miracle, considering the vast devastation. You walk along the beach, the breeze so gentle, so soothing, that you get confused: the world can be such tragedy & such joy at the same time. It feels like you might just split into two & each half die. But then you see a person walking toward you on the beach. They raise a hand & wave. You raise a hand & wave. They gesture around them with arms raised, twisting back & forth, as if to say All of this. All of this. You nod. When you are close enough you say hello & they smile & say hello. Hard to imagine, they say. That two days ago I was worried about my internet provider being unreliable. I spent hours on the phone arguing with them. They chuckle. You shake you head. Is it the whole island? you say. Is it all like this? They smile a different smile, sadder, but kinder. Yes, the whole island is gone. But not just the whole island. The whole world. The storm flattened all the works of man. You don’t recall sitting, but you find yourself sitting on the beach, the person beside you, holding one of your hands within their two hands. It is a chance, they say, a second chance. You understand what they mean, but when you try to think of what the future might be, of what to do even today, you can’t picture yourself doing a thing, any thing, you can only picture a fruit tree breaking, as in time-lapse, into dense blooms of pink & white.


Thunder booms & lightning crackles. This is an intense storm. You’re glad to be inside this large plastic bubble. Like an inflatable hamster-ball, you can walk forward inside the ball & it rolls with each step, carrying through the soaked street in complete dryness & comfort. The rain is so heavy that water slides over the curves of the hamster-ball like an oozing glaze. You are reminded of how glass, though it looks solid, is a liquid, & how it is that way with all things: the thing that something looks like is almost never the thing that it is. Down the street you see another hamster-ball rolling toward you through the rain. As you get close, you push over toward the left edge of the sidewalk, rolling over the scrabbly lawn. The oncoming person fall moves their hamster-ball to your right. As you get close you look into the other hamster-ball. You smile & begin to wave, but stop in mid-wave. This person is beautiful—not only attractive, but emanating a deep beauty of self & soul. You are immediately & deeply smitten. And from the gaping look on their face you can tell they feel the same. Their hamster-ball presses up to your hamster-ball & the two skins of wet plastic squeak as they slide against one another. You reach your hand out. They reach their hand out. But the momentum of your two hamster-balls move you forward & you continue walking in order to not be knocked off your feet. You look back over your shoulder as they look back over their shoulders & the two of you hold each other in your gazes for a moment longer, until the rain falls harder, blotting out whatever is within the round skins of plastic. You are so dry in your hamster-ball, so safe. After a block or so, you have difficulty recalling what the person even looked like.


You sit in a waiting room, looking at a copy of National Geographic. The issue has photographs in which the subjects of the photos are still alive, in a limited way, & go about their business of walking down a cobblestoned sidewalk in a foreign capitals or carving a tree into a canoe or diving for sponges in warm, clear water as you sit in the beige room. Nice weather we’re having, the man sitting next to you says. You look out the window. The sky is the red of a strawberry soda. Yes, you say. Since the disaster the weather has been really nice. The man nods. The two of you chat for a bit, about this, about that, the weather, the kinds of TV shows you used to enjoy back when there was TV. The man tells of visiting the Great Coral Reef in Australia before the disaster destroyed it, of two hammerhead sharks swimming so close their fins brushed against him. He tells of climbing Mt. Everest before the disaster destroyed it, of the frozen bodies of the dead & how climbers piled coins at the feet of the dead as offerings. Just then the assistant calls you in. Nice talking to you, you say. And it was. This is maybe the friendliest conversation you’ve had with a stranger since the disaster. What was your name? The man & you shake hands. My name is Jeremiah Nightingale, the man says. That’s a great name, you say. My other name is Overberry Clementine. The man still grips your hand, continuing to shake it. We’ve met before, he says. We have? you say, not recalling this. Yes, he says, but my name then was Carolina Utterknuckles. And then you remember him, his knuckles back then were thick & twisted with arthritis. The disaster was good for you, you say. He releases your hand. The disaster, he says, was good for all of us.


You are at a church, sitting on a steel foldout chair in the back row of many rows of foldout chairs. The congregants are all dressed in matching red tuxedos. The priest stands on a raised red platform, wearing an ornate & sparkly red tuxedo. My loved ones, we have gathered today in here, the priest says. To get through this thing that some call life. An exciting word, life it means everlastingly. And that is a heckuva long time. You realize this priest has stolen Prince’s monologue from the beginning of “Let’s Go Crazy” & just changed a few words so any teachers won’t be able to google it & see its plagiarized. You’re appalled & you get up & leave. When you stand you knock the steel chair over & it clatters on the ground. The whole church turns their heads toward you. The priest can see that you’ve figured out his plagiarism. His eyes plead that you don’t reveal his transgression. Sweat pours down his forehead. You shake your head at him. You run a thumb across your throat, as if slitting it. The congregation looks between you & the priest, suddenly understanding that he has stolen from Prince. A furor of shouts & chatter rises up. You leave, letting the door slam behind you. Outside a woman wearing a purple wig asks you if you want a cigarette. I don’t smoke, you say. Too unhealthy. She holds up her cigarette to you & you see that the tobacco is rolled in a five-dollar bill. It’s not unhealthy if you roll it like this, she says. And it’s even less unhealthy if you roll it in a twenty. She pulls a twenty-dollar bill from her bag. The bill is so crisp & new, it is as stiff as steel. She bends the crisp dollar & drops tobacco into it & rolls it up. Here, she says, & holds the cigarette out for you to lick the edge of the paper to seal it. The scent of honeysuckle rises from her skin. You lick the twenty-dollar bill.


Mathias Svalina

Mathias Svalina is the author of five books, most recently, The Wine-Dark Se from Sidebrow Books. He is an editor for Octopus Books and runs a Dream Delivery Service.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2018

All Issues