this is not a poem about a dream

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

this is not a poem about a dream

when, at night, the wind howls
and branches of a dead oak scratch the skin
of our world,

when rain puddles on the brick path,
in smeared reflections of an other
-worldly moon,

when screaming silence drips
steadily, steadily
in the gutter, on the roof,

and the old neighbor-dog howls in the distance
conjuring up an image of
grandmother’s banshee

and the rhythmic cadence of real-time fear
beats, beats, beats
on the window

when beating still
in a desperate soul who’s
alone in the darken corner his room,

alone in the chill
of a sweat-drenched bed,
alone in the bleakness of
an empty life

that’s thrumming,
thrumming, thrumming
to its hollow demise

then (i tell you this—)
this is not a poem about a dream
though it could be.)

The title and the final two lines of the poem are from Mary Oliver’s poem Five AM in the Pinewoods, published in House of Light.

Linked to dVerse Meeting the Bar where Bryan Ens is guest-hosting. He asks us to explain our choice of poetic form. I enjoy form poetry, though I most often turn to free verse because it allows my thoughts, that come from who-knows-where, to flow quickly. I chose a couple of poetic devices in this to create intensity:

  • Repetition
  • Onomatopoeia

I also omitted use of Upper Case, also to promote a sense of stream-of-consciousness thinking. When I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of writing daily–in this case, due to other responsibilities which are slowly easing–I turn to other poets for inspiration. I selected a quote from a Mary Oliver poem to set this one in motion–without any idea of where it would propel me. Erasure poetry is also a great way to jump-start the inner poet.


19 thoughts on “this is not a poem about a dream

  1. 5h2o says:

    Excellent pacing. The reader gets a very intimate sense of movement and fear.


  2. Jamie Dedes says:

    The rhythm of this piece is very appealing, Victoria. It echoes, echoes, echoes the loneliness of the piece. Well considered and effective.


  3. The greaTEST joy to me of living in an illness worse..
    in someways.. than hospice itself.. as nothing is
    left.. not even effective vision.. hearing.. or
    feeling even a tear.. in all is pain..
    is to know and understand now
    these places of human in now
    hell do exist.. and to know
    death in life
    is to
    for life as death..
    and the ultimate
    that death
    a joy of the
    flower that
    no longer
    of life..:)


  4. mia says:

    This is an awesome line break:
    “and branches of a dead oak scratch the skin
    of our world”

    Love the slant rhyme of “moon” and “roof.” Wonderful ending, as well.

    I think we can all probably insert ourselves into this poem.


  5. X says:

    Pretty cool to get some inspiration from erasure poetry, even if it is just a line. The title, echoed with in the poem, where you almost address the reader that this is reality puts an even greater sense of urgency or reality to this. To think of that person so alone and haunted even by the sounds, is rather painful.


  6. whimsygizmo says:

    Excellent. And gotta love ANY mention of a banshee. 😉


  7. There are so many things to love about your poem and explanation, so I’ll just pick two. I like that you used Mary Oliver as a source of inspiration. And number two..I think it’s awesome that you mentioned erasure as one method for poetry. Are you a fan of found poetry?


  8. kanzensakura says:

    Wow. The explanation given had me going back and reading again…like a an awake dream this poem is…eerie but full of amazing images….each stanza building on each other – the beat beat beat….and I now understand no capitalization in a much different way. Incredible poem.


  9. Interesting compilation, but quite a sad story…. I’m imagining a young boy – quite depressed and alone – but then all readers bring our own baggage, don’t we? Excellent poem Victoria…. I think form poetry robs the poets artistic touch also… it’s ok too – but to realize the artist’s true self, his or her soul on canvass to speak of, then having it forced into a pre-defined box certainly shaves the edges off of it to say the least…


  10. DELL CLOVER says:

    WOW WOW WOW–exquisite. Loved every line.


  11. Your methodology is faultless, Victoria, and produced a spine-chilling poem, consistent within the free-ish form. I shivered, but loved it.


  12. The repetition worked so well here, it adds to the feeling of fear.. I almost get a feeling that you wish it would be a dream…
    The idea of why we write a certain form is always interesting… For me a form is great when I lack inspiration.. The rhymes give me a path to follow so to speak.


  13. claudia says:

    oh heck…that gave me goosebumps a bit and the repetition def. added to the eerie feel… thanks for explaining the devices you used as well.. i mostly use some without being able to explain what i really did… i guess i’m not a teacher by nature – ha


  14. I like the repetition. I enjoyed this. Peace, Linda


  15. Sabio Lantz says:

    Eerie and captivating.
    Thanks for the discussion of your methods


  16. I love using quotes and lines from poetry. I also love Cento and have written several.
    I love that you used that line in the title as well as ending with it.


  17. Bryan Ens says:

    the repetition worked nicely. The “beat beat beat” gave more of a feeling of beating than a single “beat” would have been. I love the “stream of consciousness” feel to this. By the way…you commented about writing both form and free verse. Me too! I tend to use form poetry, somewhat as a method of self-discipline…but when I have emotions that I need to release, free verse is my friend!


  18. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Strong poem, unfettered, out of harness, only 3 line stanzas & the dark theme give it a semblance of a form; that like symbolism found in literature, or themes in strings of movies–it may be just happenstance. You know I adore using quotes or borrowed lines; nice touch.


  19. Mary says:

    Interesting to read your explanation, Victoria. I often omit upper case, but never really had a reason why. Your reason fits for my poems as well…it shows stream of consciousness rather than complete thoughts. Lower case allows the poem to just flow… I do like the way you write free verse, and (smiles) yes this could be a poem about a dream!


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