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Steamroller

Dreamed late 20th century by Richard Wilbur

[This] dream... seems to me both hilarious and embarrassing, because I cannot bear self-pity or feelings of nobility in myself. The dream occurred at a time when I had been, as they say, "pressing myself very hard," and apparently felt that I was neglecting my own work or pleasure for the sake of others.

In the dream I was standing in a highway some distance from a little town. A steamroller, driven by myself, came toward me as I stood there, and my spirit therefore prudently flew up and looked down on the goings-on. When the steamroller had passed over my body, it lay in the road like a rolled-out ginger cookie; it was not, however, light-brown in color, as gingerbread men are, but was full of red and blue traceries resembling the representations of innards in medical books. Whereupon, like a piece of wrapping paper driven by a gale, my body was peeled from the road surface and whipped across intervening fields to the village, where it at once became a stained-glass window in a church.

I believe that this dream requires no explanation, but I report it because, though emotionally disgraceful, it is visually clever and delightful.

--Richard Wilbur

EDITOR'S NOTES

"Emotionally disgraceful"? Okay, Mr. Saint In the Stained-Glass Window, blush all you like. It only adds to the, er, local color. In the Church of Latter-day Overworked Poets.

Richard Wilbur has served as poet laureate of the United States and has won two Pulitzer Prizes. A good selection of his work is New and Collected Poems (1987); for his prose, try The Catbird's Song: Prose pieces, 1963-1995.

This version of Wilbur's account is from Night Errands: How Poets Use Dreams (ed. Roderick Townley, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998), but I believe it's also in The Catbird's Song.

--Chris Wayan



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