Goodbye, the Dream

1 August 2014

While in spectral communication with some illustrious friends the other night, I felt
bound to inform them that we’d all moved on so far in 2014 this year of anyone’s
lord that their views on this and that (also, the other thing) are no longer relevant.
I’m happy to report that they took the news remarkably well, for passé antediluvians,
each in characteristic fashion.

The following is at transcript of our conversation.

Miroslav Holub

There’s no explosion like a line
with a joke at the end of it.
It’s fun also to dance on temple walls
and feel them tremble, a little.
Or grind fags out
in the forecourts of government offices
as close as you can get
to the NO LITTERING sign.
Paranoia was the go in my day too.
That’s only sensible. Beyond a by-your-leave
or maybe not, it’s always true:
though they lead you gently by the hand,
they are out to get you.



W. B. Yeats

Ascend – we know you must – the winding stair
to the upper room prepared for your arrival.
The view is wonderful.
Horizons have been specially designed
to carry sight beyond
your sleepiest imaginings.

You ask more?
Sometimes a wild swan
swoops over the lake,
or a jackdaw,
caught unaccountably in your room,
flies at you as from a dream
by Bergman. Or a pre-Raphaelite patter
of rain arrives on cue
to dimple the water.

Such stuff belongs on post-cards, now.
No-one wants to carve their name
in the desk you leant on
looking out your
Tennysonian embrasure.
You’ve heard of ‘closure’?
We’ve had a century of it
sandwiched between wars.

You wouldn’t know us.
Our idea of comprehension
would seem a fitful, random
throwing things together
to your eye; our pleasure
a strange, feverish, distractedness
from charm.

We’re more fascinated by ourselves
than you could possibly imagine.
Why not? What we can manage
by a thought Is marvellous. We indicate,
and forests fall.
Our least decorous perceptions,
for all their trade in shadows, self deception,
outright, down home lies,
are more attractive to us than your grand sonorities.



John Berryman

We get it. You’re far out at sea,
can’t swim, and your father
who took you there,
is threatening to leave you.

Several things are possible.
You can dream yourself ashore,
or let go and let the ocean have you.

Famous tantrums follow in either case;
but this, you know, is only buying time.
You still can’t swim,
and water’s implacable as stone.

That come on in, life’s fine! spiel
didn’t fool you for a moment.
You always knew the stuff kills
if you take too little
of it in martinis.

It’s implicit everywhere,
lying low, or towering above a day’s occasions,
full on, hidden, multiform;
potent to freeze to nothing every sense
you ever cared for. And always happy
to renew acquaintance.



Wallace Stevens

Don’t start, please. You’ll never make it. Quit now.
Reel out language to world’s end as you will,
you won’t catch the whale.
A so-so sunset throws off idle aperçus
too quick even for your lens speed, friend.
Clod in a field’s corner, fantastic failure
as you knew you would be, from the first.
It’s sad, but true,
in our beginning is our end,
and there’s nothing to do but continue.



William Wordsworth

Billy, you’re a case, you know?
We do, now, and speak of you with a fond smile although
even your best words overflow
the sturdiest crucible.
Oh, but how we wish — it’s not easy to admit —
we could make something near as good
as the mouth you showed
death’s light shining language
and do it with one part your clumsy skill
and as little rage.
And to have flowers falling
on you from high buildings everywhere you go!
That must have been nice, also.



William Blake

You couldn’t have sold William Blake an IPhone.

Dippy William never had the slightest doubt
the tree outside his window’s better
than its image on a screen.

Bill had been
places we’ve only heard about,
from people like him, mostly.

I bet you can’t even copperplate,
can you? Nor can I.
And still we think,
because some television spruiker says so,
our apps will take us god-wards, as we die.



Heinrich von Kleist
The Poetry Scene (present company excepted)

They read
as though scaling the backs
of the porcupines ahead of them,
who are bristling.

A bird in their hand dies, immediate.
When they think of their mothers,
cash registers go ping!
in adjacent emporiums.

When they play golf,
they drive towards the clubhouse
in the hope of braining a competitor,
then form groups to discuss
the mysteries of trajectory.

When they open their mouths to discuss themselves,
dogs groan. Their dogs,
that love them dearly.


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