It was just another day, another walk through Bern, Vienna, or Prague with their tidy lines, smart streetcars and tiny castles. I am walking away from something to another zone or point-of-view. I hear a shot, a call to arms, a hint of trouble, or the last cries of a dying man.
It’s as if I have been transformed and scales have been removed from my eyes. I am looking at everybody and everything. I read the faces in the crowd. I notice the robin on the high branch and the hawk slowly circling. Everything and everyone is in a freeze frame for my consideration. I feel completely alive while walking, looking for trouble and studying the silence and images that survive in the cracks and crevices.
The scene shifts. I am in some club in New York City; perhaps the Athletic Club off Central Park South. I am there to offer a program about poetry, a subject that I know and don’t know. I am somewhat cavalier, suggesting that for many poets their poetry stopped when their favorite poet died. I mean it as a joke. I suggest for me poetry stopped when Robert Lowell died. I was a graduate student then. I hear moans from the audience, reminding me that this is a sacred task.
Then I mention that the job of the poet is to find the images in all their forms and majesty. I mention wandering around European cities, being on edge, looking for danger. I said that this is what it’s like in war. I was back in the Tonkin Gulf looking for movement in the water, the gun boats, the torpedoes and the bad guys. I wanted to hear a pin drop on the open sea. I was ready to kill. I would have gladly been killed if the image had been ripe and sharp.
I hear another voice and assume it must belong to my interlocutor. That is one way to look at an image, he says. He then gives me a piece of paper, a column width. It seemed like a compact, a set of responsibilities: my to-do list. The scene is becoming more social.
An elderly woman who is supposed to help me rediscover poetry appears to kiss old texts, hand written notes and ledgers. I am not sure of her role or the way forward but sense I should be open to everything.
An associate asks me for a business card and I respond, I only have myself standing here in my nakedness, though I was fully clothed. Another person reminds me that I was once responsible for building a velodrome, a bicycle racing track. At first I think this conversation is going off the rails then I realize everything is related. I sense I am circling more than I know.
The vision I am having does not suggest a specific path; it’s about seeing, observing, and acknowledging. Nothing is left behind. Poetry is found in the bits and pieces, the shards, and the sorrow on the other man’s face. It’s in the loving, in the killing and the dying. It’s in our fictions, personas and the voices on the wind. It’s in the picaresque moment we capture on our shoes.
I am grateful for the dream tutorial that I accepted as a welcome gift from the psyche.