Poem of the Week | February 02, 2010

This week, we happily feature another poem from our most recent issue, The Questionable Past (32.4): Richard Bausch’s “Dream Poem 10.” Richard Bausch is the author of eleven novels, seven volumes of stories, and, just out from LSU Press, a book of poems and prose entitled, These Extremes.

“Dream Poem 10” comes from a longer series of dream poems; he has this to say about them:

“I wrote these poems in late July and early August of this past summer, when my wife and daughter were visiting family in Canada. I was alone in the house, trying to get back into the wing of work on a novel and spending a lot of time reading and watching old movies. That week and a half, as usual, I spent a lot of time in the provinces past midnight. It was in the night hours that I composed these poems. For me, poetry has always been the most demanding form of expression; my confidence as a writer is, I believe, healthily low, anyway. But regarding poems, I simply feel that my own efforts are seldom much beyond idiocy. I hope these are somewhat beyond it.”

Dream Poem 10

I chased sleep all night. We two went far & wide,
Through Time & times,

Old ghosts. He wore a cloak that made him look derelict,
Like a tramp.

He also had a cane & feigned a limp, but I
Wasn’t fooled.

I asked him where you were. He said he didn’t know.
But he would

Show me if I just followed him a few more years.
We went so far

I couldn’t catch him, though his limp grew worse, but he
led me on.

In Athens, we were greeted like two old kind kings,
& asked to stay.

Everyone claimed to have seen you only yesterday.

A vast desert,” I said. “There are so many town
To keep track of.”

No one would listen. Sleep grew weary of the talk.
So we went on.

By now I only wished for him to let his guard
Down, so I could

Corner him. But he went on, kept out of reach.
My legs grew long

As bamboo stalks & thin as thoughts of money to
A man like me.

High in the hills of China, near that wall, I caught
Him. We went down

In a tide of dust & stones, a rage of ash & smoke.
It looked like war.

I dragged him by his feet across the continents,
& finally

Across the sea, the polar caps, the mountains, hills,
& dreaming rivers,

To this old town made out of songs, this street, this house,
This empty house.