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Traumdeutung

Dreamed before 1983 by Charles Gullans

Over a bottle of white wine we talked,
Calming the future of the next few days,
And then the night was quiet and the house,
And I had settled into bed, and slept,
And dreamed a little, and had slept again.
And I was walking on an endless plain,
And I was walking there, upright and tense,
Walking beside you over distances
Too level and too vast to gauge by sight,
And hurrying.
                       Why were we there at all,
What were we doing on the burning plain,
So dreamlike and inconsequent? What war
Was I translated to against my will,
Defending you from terror? Under red skies,
The far fields smoked, and parched grain fell to earth;
And the dark, faceless peasants saw their death
In the near winter snows. I watched gray ash
Drift from the air and light upon my hands
And felt its touch upon my upturned face.
Nothing could have been worse, more wrong, the fire
And fury nothing like the tenderness
I felt, as I embraced you, standing there;
And I walked, armored, to unknown demands.

I rose, slowly, to morning wakefulness
And faced the stark bewilderment of dream
To ponder its insoluble commands,
Lingering like compulsion in the day.
How had the patient people on the land
Gained entrance to my sleep to point the fall
Of casual death upon the innocent?
I understood the threat to you and me,
And knew the war was real; but asked again
If these crude melodramas of the mind
With their extreme, impassioned episodes,
Causeless effects, and regal sentiment
Were counterfaces to the household calm
That stare us into stone with our own fears?
Or were they omens of a change to come,
Whose vague, portentous outlines slipped away
Even as I muddled through my thoughts of them
And hurried through the house to go to school?

EDITOR'S NOTE

Personal, political, or both? The dream clearly rubs Gullans's nose in famine and war, but is it merely ("merely"!) reminding him how sheltered he is, reminding him of his moral obligation to oppose wars elsewhere? Or... are there hints of a troubled relationship here too? If so, the dream may be warning "make domestic peace at any cost--don't drift into open war." I first read this poem thirty years ago, and I wondered then. I'm still not sure.

Source: Under Red Skies by Charles Gullans; 1983, Robert Barth, Florence, Ky.



LISTS AND LINKS: war, fire, disaster - farms - love - breakups? - dreamwork - dream-poems - W.H. Auden had 3 eerily parallel dreams of love/marriage/war, in The Lesson

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