. . . an old and very peculiar poem based on a dream.




First the wobbly bookcase top where I sat

after giving tea to the women who interrupted

the poem.   When they at last were ready

to leave, I had to ask a curly-haired girl

to brace the piano stool, so I could jump down.

When she turned into my son as he was

twenty-eight years ago, and when he went

to open my parents’ bedroom door,

I followed him.


There was a strange woman

in their bed, pale, dressed in Victorian blue;

it took a hell of a time to wake her.

Jim told me I could sleep here, she whispered,

he said he’d throw cold water on me

when it was time for me to go.


I took a bottle and a brush

from the dresser, began to paint my son’s little face.

It was supposed to be Indian brown,

but I couldn’t see any difference.

Then the factory tour, all along a balcony

that opened outdoors, turned into stairs–

the creepy kind, with no railings or edges.

Cautiously I climbed down to the gravel entry

of the inevitable gift shop.


I leaned on the fence,

looked up at the grassy ski lift where the stairs had been,

where gaudy mannequins were poised.

Jacques Cousteau–I recognized him right away–

was leaning there next to me, his elbows resting

on the rail.  In my day, there wasn’t even a lift,

he said.  No gift shop, no tour.


I had to sneeze

and I woke up, thinking of the beautiful sisters

who brought in a bear and fed him by the fire.

September 3, 2003


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