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World Tour

Dreamed 1937? by Sharon Boyle, poem published 1938 by her mother Kay Boyle

You know, I had the funniest dream last night,
She said when she came home from school.
I was standing in the chapel just like every day
And all the other kids were there, of course,
And then this man, you know, a kind of short thin man,
Came in and took the middle of the floor
As if he was going to make a speech or something.
But before he got a word out, I don't know how it was,
The whole top of his head started to burn.
Oh, I forgot to say that all the time
he had his hand up in, you know, like the fascist salute
And his other hand was held up shaking in a clenched fist all the time.
Well, after his head caught on fire, he kept on burning,
His hair, and face, and neck, and everything straight down
And nobody did anything or said a word. It was cuckoo.
But just before his shoes burned he said: "Vive
La Patrie!' I don't know what said it, I mean,
Whether it was his shoes said it or what, but
Anyway he said: "Vive la Patrie!' with a funny accent
Like a foreigner trying to speak French, and in my dream
I did the dumbest thing. I fell down on my knees
In front of all the other kids and started praying.

--Kay Boyle

Source: The Collected Poems of Kay Boyle (1991).


This is just a fragment; the middle third of Kay Boyle's long poem "World Tour." The sandwich-bread around the dream is Kay Boyle ranting about Franco's and Mussolini's brutality. So is this dream real, or is she putting words in her daughter's mouth to add relief to an otherwise ugly newsflash of a poem? I can't be sure. But the dream's so compelling I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Whether it's Sharon's or Kay's vision, day or night, it's prescient. Notice the date--in 1938 Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, made concessions to Hitler that purchased "peace in our time." Next year the holocaust began.

--Chris Wayan

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