Three American Dreams by
(166 Stories)

Prompted By The American Dream

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

— I —

Tables sag with provender

Prime ribs, suckling pigs, purple pomegranates

Chewed-on, puked up, wasted detriti

Litter the Persian carpets, lounging, waiting not caring

Whisked up by a brown man in a white coat

Armed with dustpans and broom


Club chairs and sofas gleam with silk and gold fabric

Pilfered from global’s trades

Champagne–sodden linen

Saturates scattered lines of mirror-razor blow


trumpinteriorGilded pillars disguise rebar-enforced concrete,

The charade ascends to false ceilings

Silent for the time

While the palace king lies sniffing and twitching

Thumbing dumb obscenities into the dark world’s cyberspace


Further down the highway

The White House slumps with fatigue

Gardens frozen over

Random shutters flapping against shattered hand-blown glass


Inside, the snow has drifted

Across the marble carpet

The creeping frozen whiteness stains

Cherry wood antiquities

Ignorance bleaches cursive parchment documents illegible


Wind blows through the oval offices

Banning compromise

While snarling red hyenas

Gnaw on history’s broken bones,

An American nightmare.



— I I —

‘Way back in America

A youngster lay awake

Pivoting from romanced dreams to a new now

Curious about what led to his life


The prairie locomotiveprairieloco

Rolled across the fruited plain,

And Abraham Lincoln conducted civil discourse

with leaves of grass


Poets, thugs, and novelists

Scribbled burning narratives

Of hardscrabble love and

Cowardly war’s abandoned bravery


A young reader soaked up an America that came before

And dreamt it out again

Embracing the raucous paradox of the well-told lie

And the talking union’s hard-won wisdom


When all across America

The music came alive

From rock and roll to blues

From jazz to Appalachia’s ballads, reels and waltzes,

Laughed and cried over tuned steel

Stretched tight across strutted wood and banjo-fretted mule skin


He devoured the tales told,

History’s lies, fiction’s truths

And learned to play the tunes

Not knowing that

In time’s short run, attenuated only by youth,


Fiction’s eager songs and history books

Would toss ecstatic new dreams against real-world necessity,

Projecting the unjust, accelerating present

Onto the blurred, misrepresented past,

A breathless new awareness

Born from the plowed prairie sod of an early American Dream.


— III —


Reverb’s echoed decibels bounce down the Fillmore hall

Dancers spin in galaxies around a mirrored ball

Lenses from the balcony, the Hindu Vishnu’s eye

Conjure up goddesses of peace and war —

Bangkok hooker children, contorted napalm flowers,

Rattled frightened soldiers

One boy’s helmet shouts MEAT IS MURDER from flimsy camouflage


hindu5-5Vishnu dreams of dawn and flings the dancers’ galaxy across the bay

Dropping freaks in random droves on Oakland’s great highway

Staring up at concrete walls,

Built by grateful workers who now must watch their children bundled off to war

The building that once housed public worth, now charnels sanctioned death


Vishnu dreams of morning light, they listen for the roar

Silver buses stuffed with blue-jeaned, chino’d boys

The convoy halts, a snorting concert of air pressure

Doors fly open and the Government Issue (G.I.) boys

Step off the murder meat express


Beyond Vishnu’s dream, a green gate rolls aside

A square black open maw commands

form a single line, it squawks / fall in / form a single line…


Dancers rush the pig enclosures

Vishnu’s sleeping breath flows over the dueling choruses,

Hell no, they whisper, nobody goes / hell no nobody goes / hell no nobody…

Form a single line / fall in / form a single line…


Sleeves rolled high on biceps, the G.I. draftees stand stock still, listening…

Hell no nobody goes / hell no nobody goes / hell no nobody…

Form a single line / fall in / form a single line…


The Government Issue boys cross the street, first a trickle, then more, first a walk, then run

Vishnu finds the dancers braced to take the blows

She dreams the boys surround freaks and dancers with embraces.

As they stand together, the band begins to cry

Hell no, nobody goes / hell no nobody goes / hell no nobody…


gatesbook-revolutionwallAt the bottom of the fortress, the tic tac pig squad shouts bullhorn warnings

Order you to / order you to / order you to…

Disperse! In the name of the people!

Protestors slap knees, draftees flip birds,

“We are the people dammit. We are the people, are the people!”


On that day, Vishnu dreams and nobody goes to the tower

No scared, no angry, no patriotic boys,

No rag-tag, torn-shirt, tear-gassed army in the street,

Nobody goes, nobody goes, nobody goes


Ten days later, back asleep, Vishnu floats the dancers over mountains and prairies and forested hills to Arlington, the Pentagon.


They build a penta galaxy surrounding power offices, the asymmetry of fives,

The dancers dance and Shiva dreams the granite mass uprising,

Tearing plumbing roots and ragged wires, defying gravity,

Its ugly pimpled backside floating upward, a tumbled humpty dumpty

Inside embedded war rooms, Old white men wept and lifted phones

To put an end to war.

#   #   #

Profile photo of Charles Degelman Charles Degelman
Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: right on!


  1. John Zussman says:

    Such a wealth of colorful images, and such a vivid contrast between the post-apocalyptic vision of the first section and the grassroots dream of the second. Write on!

  2. Suzy says:

    This is wonderful. It definitely makes sense. The two parts seem like entirely different poems though. The Prologue (which is also Part I? – unless there is another Part I still to be written), is dramatically, powerfully awful, the American NIghtmare indeed. Part II is beautiful, and optimistic, and exciting. Maybe that’s your point. Looking forward to the two additional dreamscapes you plan to add.

    • My premise is that we have many American dreams, not just the myth of post-WW II hegemony. The two parts are definitely different narratives and the headings probably blur. Looking to make the prolog discrete. Definitely a work in progress with two more dreams to be captured.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Whose dreams are these, Chas? Such different visions, such evocative writing. Where does it come from? What is your inspiration? I look forward each week to your writing. I marvel at your word choices. Can’t wait for you to be done grading papers…looking forward to the next two dreams!

    • The dreams, including the initial nightmare, are mine. I’m trying to present more personal alternatives to the standard post-WWII American Dream. The next two dreams will evoke dreams of positive change from my own history as a dreamer, dreams I think we share with many others. Just not about homes, cars, and Ozzie and Harriet.

  4. rosie says:

    Dear Charles,
    It is late night and I know this poem requires several readings. Very interesting and a little confusing. I always think of Vishnu as a more peaceful god and Shiva as more of a warrior. However, still I must have missed much and will reread this again.

    I loved your referencing the Fillmore(west?), I assume. I was in NY city and used to go to Fillmore east for about 2 dollars, every week we had time. All the changes we hoped to make, have not happened.

    I just finished your book “Bowl of Nails” which I bought on Amazon. Hope it helps support this sight. I loved it. It reminded me so much of my 60’s and 70’s experiences and it helped me understand some of the political movements a little better. My experience with the Weathermen was not so benign.

    • Yes, the American Dream piece is a work in progress. Thanks for your kind words.

      I have to disagree with you about the changes we hoped to make. They DID happen! Look at our world (block out the election)! Feminism, environmentalism, minority studies, alternative life styles (including energy consumption), new ways to community organize… all those things came out of the New Left and its fellow travelers. In my book, we won lots and threatened the power structure when it needed to be threatened.

      I’m delighted you read A Bowl Full of Nails! And yes, it was a friendly take on the weather underground, but correct, I think, in the larger context of the story. If you’d like to leave a brief review on Amazon, you can at

  5. rosie says:

    Thank your upbeat response.

  6. rosie says:

    Charles 2nd reading, I still will visit time to time as it changes because I enjoy its breathless rhythm and the ideas take time to absorb thoroughly.

  7. rosie says:

    Charles that is great, wish I could have heard your reading. I always imagine that you have an expressive way of reading a story that matches your wit and irony.

Leave a Reply