Why is it that in dreams I have visited –
As teacher or pupil – almost every college and school
In our once so green and pleasant land?
Hardly a subject from art to anthropology I have not
In dream seminar or floating spinning classroom
Studied or tried my prentice hand at, or learned
At the sandalled feet of some guru; as this minute
I returned from an easeled art room with the title
Of my weekly essay, ‘Discuss the links between the work
Of any symbolist poet and Monet.’
O, how slowly I drifted back to consciousness
Probing delightedly the dizzying whitenesses of Mallarmй
Strolling along an avenue of linden trees
Under a Provencal sky of azure
Wet with the scent of jasmine and lavender.
Yet in reality, things could hardly have been more different:
Watching our children grow from their first tottering steps,
Helping to tend them in sickness, learning the basics
Of the healer’s art, taking an old man to a ward,
Listening, listening to how many troubled lives
And to my own, perhaps; seeking to tease a meaning
Or find a thread in the jumbled maze of sorrows
Souls in their turbulence and grief have wandered through.
I even wrote a novel, ‘A Gone World’ I called it,
And helped another with the birth-pangs of her own.
Trying my hand at translation I puzzled the subtle
Metaphors of Reverdy, wandering his midnight landscapes
Of windmills and cross-roads where faith meets fate
And neither will succumb.
I sat in a packed lecture hall while a Lacanian
Misread early Freud through a crooked lens
And for a year turned every seminar to war
To make him see his vision’s fatal flaw.
I poured over cabinets of case histories,
Tried living here and there and met an amah,
Teaching her Auden and Empson. Her tears mingled
With my own at our last hurried meeting
In a crowded tea room, teaching her Klein.
I sat through many a summer watching the children play,
Feeling a hermit’s contentment in his cave,
Contemplating Plato and envisioning that cave
Of his where shadows move against the wall;
And turn to see or fail to see
The need to turn at all.