In the Dreaming Land / Joseph Schreiber

Ghost gum and red rock - RIC

Red dust. White-skinned ghost gums. This is the dreaming land. Alive with tens of thousands of years of walking, remembering. One does not venture here without waking sleeping memories riding deep.

This is the dreaming land.

Finke River - RIC

Ten months after my mother’s death, this journey is my journey to find a way to start to speak to my loss, to begin to loosen a tightly woven, deeply buried grief.

It starts with a dream. The first into which she has entered. And it is an absence. An eerie, haunting absence.

A house, strange, empty, but for a dress hanging in a vacant room. Yellow. 1960s style. I don’t quite remember it, yet I know it’s her. Another room, another dress. Turquoise. Coral. Soft green. Each one suspended, mid-air, as I move from room to room.

It disturbs me. My mother aches my sleeping soul.

unnamed (12)

I never see her. I sense her. I feel her near. Not the bent, fragile figure of her later years. The younger. The beautiful. My mother. My friend.

I wake in tears. The first since she died. The tears will rest on my dusty cheek, choke my voice, now, every time she comes to mind. Every time I speak my loss. My pain.

The dreams, strange, distorted, struggle to the surface. Nightly. Mother. Sometimes my father too, but he has presence—odd, ghost-formed—when he appears.

unnamed (11)

But my mother will continue as that absence, that spirit, rising from the land, rocky passages, red dirt, ghost gums. The woman who birthed me will be carried on my breath, my heart beats. Slow, cautious, painful steps. As we walk, as we sleep, here in this precious, harsh, and gracious desert in support of the women who know and live this land.

My mother is their gift to me. My song of mourning. Night into day.

unnamed (10)

This is the dreaming land. One does not venture here without waking sleeping memories riding deep.


Joseph Schreiber is a Canadian writer based in Calgary. He maintains a literary blog called roughghosts and is an editor at The Scofield Magazine. His reviews and essays have been published in a variety of literary sites and publications including Numéro Cinq, 3:AM Magazine, Minor Literature[s]The Quarterly Conversation, and the Seagull Books catalogue.

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  1. Lisa Hill

    Oh, Joe, words are inadequate to explain how this moves me. It’s exquisite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. roughghosts

      Thank you Lisa.


  2. Mini S. Menon

    Haunting, Joe. Looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One year on, thoughts about loss, and a link to a piece I wrote for my mother. – roughghosts

    […] You can find it here. With thanks to Saudamini Deo. […]


  4. bookbii

    Such beautiful writing. The sparseness and the briefness of the sentences really brings the rawness of the emotion to life.


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