Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Girl with No Nightmares

Gary Dop
From Prairie Schooner, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Spring 2012)

Creativity now is as important in education as literacy,
and we should treat it with the same status.

—Sir Ken Robinson

So the girl they’ve been protecting, the one
they’ve kept at the clean brick house on the hill
surrounded by the scenic pine trees to the west,
the pristine green fields with no power
lines to the south and east, and Crystal Lake
to the north, she’s changed. They didn’t
tell her about the war, the sick kids
in the village, or the price of the air
purifier, her tutors, and the radiated food.
Everyone wears gloves. They keep conflict
away. It’s expensive to make the food
healthy and taste like she likes, to bend
light so it’s a hot day when she wants the sun,
to find a plot for a new, fun story without fear
and dragons. She believed everything
about their world and never heard the shears
at night clipping the silent lawn or her split ends.
But last week, she woke shaking and screaming,
screaming about angels. She doesn’t know
demons or devils or the way paint chips
from walls. To her white room, they rushed
calmly with the hushed clowns
and the happy juice, but she screamed, bit
the makeup face, and invented words. She screamed
until the doctor pilled her and listened to how
the angels quit singing. The angels quit singing?
he asked. Not yet, but they will, she trembled,
tapping her curly-haired head against the wainscoting.
Darling, there’s no conflict in the world—the angels
will always sing.
He inflicted a smile. No, no, she said,
Ten thousand years from now on a Tuesday, they’ll quit
singing for a while, less than a second, a blink, half
a blink, no singing. There will be no singing,
and I think I’ll go far away from this dream
you’ve locked me inside.
With that, she cried,
and clinging to her sides, she fell asleep and hasn’t woken.
No, no, I’m joking, I lied. She’s eating well, playing
well, thinking their happy thoughts, and she has no idea
the angels will quit singing.