This is a bit of prose I wrote about a dream I had when I was very young. In fact, it may very well be my earliest memory. It was my very first nightmare, and I still remember it vividly to this day.I have to credit the poet Mark Strand for the structural inspiration.
He sits with his evaporating thoughts,
Holding the pen that might save them.
Shouldn’t have hesitated. It might
Already be too late. He pushes the pen
Into the paper and a green meadow
Creeps onto the page.Dew hangs heavily on blades of grass,
Sparkling in fragrant morning gold.
I am seated on the cool, damp earth,
Shaded, waiting. The meadow looks warm
Two people come running across the meadow.
One carries something white. The other
Is shouting. They stop and drop what they carry
In a barrel, turning toward me. They run back
In the direction they came.
I call out to them. They don’t hear me.
He stops. It’s not right. And there’s more.
He knows these people. He knows what
They were carrying. Why has he hesitated?
He knows what he has to do. It’s simple,
But it’s not getting any easier.
He starts over,The meadow spreads before me. I wait
Shrouded in sumac, shaded from the golden morning,
Afraid for the people I’ve lost. They are
Running across the meadow, carrying their
Daughter’s soiled diaper. The woman’s breasts
Bounce beneath her red blouse. Her hair
Trails behind her like an auburn vapour.
She is shouting. He is two steps ahead.
They toss the diaper into a barrel and
Turn toward me. I can see their smiles
Through my dewey eyes.
I open my mouth to call to them,
But I make no sound. They run back
The way they came. It is too late.
He takes a breath and thinks. It’s not enough.
It’s too much. He knows what he must do.
He has to get it right. Nothing will happen
If he doesn’t. And he never does.
But he writesI am waiting at the edge of a meadow
Under a canopy of sumac. The earth is
Hard and cold beneath me. I can’t feel
The sun. I am hidden. I am not… hiding.
My parents are racing across the wet
Carpet of grass. He’s holding my sister’s
Soiled diaper. My mother’s breasts toss
With her long stride. Her hair is thrown back
Like a red cape. She shouts through a laughing mouth.
They stop at the barrel and drop the diaper in.
They look right at me as they turn.
I wonder what they see –
A distant grove of sumac, darkness.
They run back the other way, but
They’re not gone yet. Just very far away.
I make the word in my throat, and push it forward,
Rolling it over my tongue, and forcing it out
Through my lips, “Mom,” so soft,
I almost don’t hear it. They are already gone.
He puts the pen down. It was too late, after all.
He knows what will happen next. That the
Sumac will pull me into the shadows.
That I will be buried. That I will suffocate.
That I could not have saved myself.
And that he was too late.