Twenty-five years of typing pedal to the metal eight hours a day, five days a week, on top of some autoimmune joint damage (a legacy of scarlet fever in my early 20’s), has been making my fingers ache, more often than not, especially lately. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to all the good stuff and, perforce, my arsenal of analgesics is limited to ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen. When I take acetaminophen, it has the curious side effect that my dreams are almost kaleidoscopically vivid, with odder than usual imagery. Tuesday night I woke about 3 o’clock from one that was particularly odd and vivid. Uncharacteristically, I got up, went into my office and scribbled down two of the images from the dream, with the intention of blogging about it at some point (like now).

I confess, unabashedly, that I had a hard time typing it verbatim — a fact that has nothing to do with my wriggly handwriting, and everything to do with being a careful writer —  one who cannot write down anything without thinking about the grammar of it, the syntax, the sentence structure. One who chooses words carefully, who nitpicks one word from among its synonyms because it is “righter” than the rest, rejects another word because the nuance isn’t right, looks up a word to make sure it says what is meant. A careful writer who will change around the word order because it doesn’t “read right,” who rereads and revises, not just to correct the spelling and fix the typos, but to fine tune the punctuation, smooth out the wrinkles. One of those careful writers in which this process of writing has become so ingrained that everything is written that way, no matter what it is — an email, a piece that’s being submitted for publication, a blog post, or a note to the landlady that the dishwasher isn’t working right.

(NB: The “old man” was played in the dream by an ancient David McCallum.)

First draft(Autograph):

First Draft(Typed):

She cradles the old man in her lap and rocks him
He was a short man to begin with.
Now his back is bowed with age.
As she holds him, his head rests just over her heart.
He is fleshless and frail, and he weighs hardly anything.
In her hand, she has two quarters,
One for each eye.

He is confused and bewildered
And the halls are crowded.
Frequently, he becomes frightened.
But she speaks to him gently
Like a mother to a small child
Puts her arm about his shoulder
And draws him along.

Revised Draft:

A Pair of Potsherds From the Field of Dreams

Cradling the old man
She rocks him in her lap
Wrapping him in both arms
Like the wings of a shawl.
To and fro, in metronomic lento.
He was a spare man to begin with,
Short and small.
His body with its heavy head
Curled like an embryo in her lap
Back bowed like the belly of a bean.
He is fleshless and frail,
And weighs hardly anything.
As she holds him in her lap and rocks,
Fro and to, in metronomic lento,
His head rests just above her heart.
In her hand, two quarters,
One for each eye.

He is confused and bewildered
The small old man
Shriveled and bowed
Tottering along.
The halls are crowded and chaotic.
Frequently, confusion flaps him.
But she speaks gently in his ear
Like a mother to a toddling child,
Puts her arm about his shoulder
To brace and shield and draw him forward,
Calmly patient with his pace.

Post and poem © 2012 The Owl Underground.  All Rights Reserved.