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NOW VOYAGER, A Dream Sequence
Were I a gentleman true, gallant,
The kind of chap with plumage in his hat,
Whose cape readies for damsel's distress,
I would say let us end it now; you are
Too young or, even better put,
I am too old for love with a beauty your age.
But let us face it!
No two-bit convention possesses me.
It was in the woods of Western Massachusetts,
I saw time tunnel down the trail before me.
I saw the nature of things,
The whirl into which all we know disappears.
And tonight faces of the dead startle me,
Yet I do not awake. I dream that
Family and friends float before me.
The calamity, death holds both young and old alike!
Darling, the air in my bedroom
It drops to the temperature of ice.
I envision my aunt, Helene, and see her
When she says to the child, who is me,
"Stanley! Go ahead! Touch her!"
My cousin, Barbara, lies in her coffin
Before the age of six; she was a year older than I.
I remember how stiff and cold her corpse felt.
My buddy, Burton, cut down well before prime.
Thought of him occupies my every day.
Revelry brings me to Joey who cried
"Whitney's dead!" And right there
On Fifth Avenue, opposite the Public Library,
He placed his gun on the glass of the showcase
Counter top. I was in the jewelry shop.
I dream a slip back to my former ways, the drinking life;
I could taste the whiskey shots, the beverage
Dispensed that afternoon, it was Johnnie Walker Black.
The haunting goes on;
More of the dead, they parade before me.
Omar, tall, dark, forgive me here for I know
No better than the honest truth, handsome,
The child, Spencer, my son's best friend,
My high-school sweethearts, Arlene and Lynn,
All taken, all unwitting emblems, as if to prove,
Life bears no promise of continuance.
Nightmare arms with disembodied hands,
Wag imaginary fingers
They seem to demand I pick up pen and write.
But before one dream ceases another appears.
The scene abruptly changes.
My fantasy goes from a somber, personal cast,
To new vision of vivid color and improbability.
My emotions are steady, yet I realize a rush of air
And that I am falling. I have fallen backwards
Into other, previous space and time.
The world before me, though a tableau
Seemingly breathing and alive, stays frozen.
It wants animation, nothing moves.
When I look, I see the birds of the air keep still --
Those who were eating did not eat,
And those who were conveying material to make nest,
Do not convey it. And, as I further study
The dream picture which enfolds
Right there in front of me,
I recognize that I am witness to
Low surf beaches and natural limestone harbors
With wharfs upon which anchor long ships,
Vessels whose hulls sprout tall, center masts
Which themselves are rigged,
Tied to great, single, rectangular sails, dyed blood red.
And athwart these ships, from gar boards up,
Are planks, broad-axed-hewed, and each of the planks
Has paint a color its own,
And each plank appears nailed one upon the other,
The sides of those long ships are as,
The bands of rainbows, red, orange, yellow,
Green, blue, indigo and regal violet.
Color upon color runs the length of keels,
And a fierce dragon head in gold crowns the prows
Rudders are mounted at right, and within each craft
Upon rows and rows of chests sit oarsmen.
The ships are set to sail,
Yet the entire assembled host
Seems as if stuck in stone,
The scene resembles a painted sculpture done in high relief.
All motion suspended,
The waves have stopped, they break not.
What a night! It is,
It really is, what a remarkable night!
Never before have I beheld,
Have I seen such a Technicolor panorama.
My own closed world of family and friends,
Familiar events and their sad foreboding,
Now become historical vision with scenes
Rooted long-ago, displaying a physical geography,
A world which I had never visited,
Environs of which I had no familiarity.
My bedroom warms. And a seemingly true,
But sixth sense intimates Spring,
I bear witness to a prelude,
The dream carries me and I sense the long days,
The glory of Scandinavian summer awakens before me.
Light, bright, bright day dawns, and it thrills me.
I ready for adventure. I am happy;
I am exhilarated beyond normal human expectations.
And, then, suddenly, as though right before my eyes,
From within a quick, upward swirling, light gray smoke,
A bearded visage materializes.
It startles me almost awake.
A strange man now dominates my dreamland,
And upon his head I see a helmet,
A four-part, iron dome with a sharp spike atop.
A braided chain surrounds its eye sockets,
Giving it a spectacle-like appearance to the visor.
Down the back of this specter’s neck,
Mounted from the edge of his helmet,
A chain-mail curtain falls
Directly to the shoulder of a thick, hide tunic.
A strap from ear guard to ear guard
Runs beneath his beard, holds his helmet in place.
He says, "Action! Please!"
At once, as though my dream a set-scene
Belonging to some kind of cinematic construct,
At once I hear birds of the air singing,
And those who were eating, eat,
And those who were conveying material to nest,
Now fly about and convey it.
The shipyard has come to life, the din already terrific.
On horizon's plane I hear low thunder.
I see the spray of waves sparkle in the daylight.
I seemingly consciously wonder, do I sleep or do I wake?
Yet the dream continues.
The ancient director's voice commands my mind's eye.
Though he speaks in a hoarse, low register,
I clearly hear him.
"Today", the ghostly presence says,
"Before I appeared in vision to you,
A fierce fit seized my brain, and I took my sword
And smashed it mightily against this stone.”
He points to a boulder of height and dimension.
“Our men had trundled it from the moraine.”
He directs my dream to gaze upon one side of the rock,
A polished surface which bears an engraved writing.
“These inscribed characters,” he states,
“Intend to memorialize the deeds of my life."
Then, wordlessly he hands me a leather roll to unfurl.
It is a runic manuscript and though
The writing, the script olden, it is Norse,
In my dream I could read it!
"My Darling Brunet," the salutation goes,
"I am your countryman, a remote ancestor,
I tell you true, and whether you believe me or not,
Or how you choose to act,
The matter rests entirely with you.
Nonetheless I urge you. Harken!"
I repeat that while I sleep an apparition presents to me
An ancient correspondence which seemingly addresses you.
"Death has deprived me of ability to speak.” He continues,
“The poet’s verse, the dream
It communicates to you is channel;
I need this vehicle, my ghost employs it.
The words you see serve as an intermediary,
His copying them out is the medium between us."
The letter goes on.
"You have been witness to the hurried activity that
Animates the point of embarkation,
Note anticipation of mere material success,
How it dwarfs more noble human endeavor.
In getting and spending we lay waste our power.
I know of what I speak: the business these ships portend,
The sails the poet describes that he had seen before him,
"The business the ships portend had been mine.
"And now voyager, you, as we once before you,
Pursue the world to bring it to your feet,
You seek new riches and hope
To bring them home to dazzle compatriots.
"Yet, whatever the greatness now awaits you.
Yours can not compare to ours, to our accomplishment.”
The reverie continued with me reading the ancient text.
The leather roll in my hands,
Wondrously I unfurl it.
The phantom's countenance appears on guard,
His vigilance insures that I not awake,
That I remain under his command and proceed
To dream and tell his letter's story.
The document sounds aloud as I mouth it.
"Forgive the invidious note. Still mull it over;
Allow me this moment. Imagine it!
"The joy! We sat well in order
And smote the sounding furrows,
And sailed into the sunrise
We headed toward the baths of the morning stars.
"And when we landed, we crossed a vast,
Unnamed landmass between Europe and Asia,
Harnessed captives to forge the rivers,
Fought numberless skirmishes,
We used native allies to establish posts for trade.
"And while we traveled we besought Odin,
"Oh Father! Oh Father of Fathers! Oh Allfather!
Soak us in the blood of enemies, and let its
Stench increase our fury. Help us to violence!
Oh Great God guide us to murder,
Death to any who would dare to, who might defy us!
"The greater bloody smell that filled our nostrils,
The more the madness drove us to fight and conquer.
"And when we lit the funeral pyres,
Made from the ships of our current travel,
And burned the bodies of our fallen comrades
Into the heaven that awaits the warrior,
Our hair became matted thick,
We were crowned with the ash of the departed.
In the smoke from those fires
We breathed in the spirits of heroic conquest.
"We were men of prayer and momentous belief,
Utterly we turned our will and
We turned our lives over to care of Father.
"And I ask, again, how may yours compare to ours,
How may your enterprise
Compare to our conquest of the East?
"We founded Kiev, established the thrones
That became the Royal house of a great nation.
"All the way from the soil of Stora Alvaret,
We had sailed, we traveled land, river and sea,
Until we crossed the Bosporus,
Where we battled foes on the plains outside Byzantium,
Our work was in the employ of oriental Emperors.
"We had conquered a vast expanse of land;
We ruled from Baltic to Black Sea.
"And when we returned to homeland shores
We had ships which were filled with slaves and honey,
And were heaped with all variety of fruit.
“We brought women to the North,
Awesome beauties of the East were ours.
“We stole the horses of the Hungarians and the Czechs.
“Our ships returned laden with pelts, fur, which we
And our people used to win our great fight against winter.
"We had returned home with coin, such silver and gold
The earth upon which you were bred and grew
Yet today yields our our hoards and bounty,
No other soil in the world counts that much treasure.
“No one need tell me how great the events,
How the gravestone script commemorates
The immortality of your ancestors’ deeds and mine.
"Yet nothing matches the warmth, the memory,
My dear wife’s body lay in bed, her sleeping next to me.
"And now, so many years ago, I remember
I happened upon my wife while she lifted
Our son to seat him on the front plank
Of an oxcart tied to a post at the front of our home.
"I must convey that there is
More lasting memory and real worth for me
In the way dappled sunlight
Had illuminated my son's head
Than is upon all the runes in the homeland today.
"Our paths emerge but for a while
Then close forever within a dream.
"Time cuts us a length so short only the moment
May be cherished, all else, vanity.
And once we recognize the transitory,
The fleetingness of all we savor,
We may seize the instant and know treasure.
"I am a phantom. My victories mean nothing.
"Were I only able to spend
An hour more in bed with my beloved,
Could I once more bear living witness
To sun’s light across tree tops at height of day.
"If only it possible to play, to tumble,
To crawl along with my toddler son,
Were we to have opportunity for our knees
And our hands to be upon this earth once more.
"Goodbye! Sweet woman, Goodbye!
"Farewell! Farewell! Remember me!"
He vanishes. His voice and face are gone.
The runic, leather manuscript,
His letter with its seemingly magic unfurling,
The record of the glory and the moral of his story,
I attempt to continue my grasp,
To keep in my hands on the record's handles,
But it has disappeared, I hold nothing.
I flounder. I try to rouse myself.
I am anxious to remember the dream vision's sequence,
The words and the phrases of its message,
Fearful that the coming dawn,
That daylight would deprive me,
Blot out the details of my night-time experience.
Yet though I try to shake myself awake,
So to get to pen and table, and write,
I am engulfed, again,
A drowsy numbness guarantees, forces my sleep.
And at this moment the dream scape has turned green.
The color now before me matches the hue,
The verdant, the summer green of those
Preserves of forest that stretch
For mile upon mile along the River Deplanes,
The green equals the shade of the woods,
The same shade as the leaves of trees,
Which circle the cemetery stone,
The burial ground of the Chippewa Chief
Whose bravery saved the pale skins at Fort Dearborn.
The green is the mid-August color, the primary cast surrounding
The horse farms and fields where I played in my youth.
And out from behind this world of green, voices,
Voices, which I hear, but do not see, they declare,
"Go slowly, my lovely moon, go slowly.
"Time chases upon our heels,
Before long it quickens its pace to furious gallop.
All earthly stores succumb to this onslaught.
In a wisp, as with the language of our monuments,
We cease, and we are remembered no more."
And now -- over and against this flood of green --
A white, spectral chorus appears.
No longer than a moment transpires when,
Out from among the members of the ensemble,
A single, ghost figure steps to the fore, and says,
“I am here to repeat ancient wisdom:
“ do we care what the joyless say?
“They should get lost, all of them!
“Once our tiny, brief light is pinched out,
“There be no night, like that everlasting night,
“When earth, it replaces heaven.
“So let’s kiss, and let’s kiss again.
“Let’s kiss a thousand times, and, then,
“Let’s do it all over again, those kisses.
“How many? How many? How many?
:How many, you ask?
“Let’s not count our kisses
“Make no mistake about it.
“People out there are jealous;
“I hear that some of them have the evil eye,
“That once they learn the number of our kisses,
“They would use a black magic to hurt us.
“No one should know how many.”