Nine Walking Dreams by Hilary Sallick

Nine Walking Dreams

When suddenly
I wanted to speak to you
a thought appeared     on its own
free of context
I tried to imagine the rest
to make the fragment into a form
of communication
But nothing I was able to say
was what was necessary
It was then I began speaking
with fewer and fewer
There was a shape
I wanted to copy in words
natural and glamorous
like a spider-web
graceful      not quite invisible
catching the light     dazzling with dew
It was a shape that could be named
It had a theme  an intention
a meaning visible in itself
Only by almost forgetting
the idea of such a form
was I able to begin
I walked home
carrying two bags
In one      pomegranates   asparagus   wine
a weight of ease and richness
In the other   three books
reminding me of my leisure
how I could choose their offer
of a kind of power
to be found within
for good
In my eyes    more beauty
the willow
rising above the buildings
the little trees turning gold
In my mind    a voice
speaking to me   only to me
I was careful
of my carelessness
I guarded my delight
as I walked home
What the very old person needs
is what the baby needs
and what we all need
So we can learn from them
They can show us
what matters
They don’t want what they don’t need
They want something more
than food water sleep touch
For the old man to need all this
from us
can be terrible
But it isn’t
Because he needs something more
What is it?
He needs to be seen
in his dreams
He needs to be remembered
He composed this poem on the spot:
The dream was walking
It took one step
and another step
It kept going
the same two steps over and over
It came to a staircase
It took a step up    It took another step
And then      because—
because of the agony
of finding no meaning
to those same two steps repeating
it decided       to stop
He told me:
Today I had a very disturbing experience
They came and took me away somewhere
It was a large amphitheater
completely dark
I didn’t know where I was
I didn’t have my billfold my credit cards
I was naked as a jaybird
Then in the darkness I heard my name called
It was terrifying
Other names followed
I connected it with an occasion honoring social scientists
who had made contributions to understanding the life course
They were going to ask me some questions
There was no one to help me
I couldn’t speak because there was no one to listen
I tried to ask for help
I tried
but there was no one
No, it wasn’t a dream!
It’s probably in The New York Times
I bet it’s in there
I keep trying to really see the sky
because the day before he died
he looked in the direction of the window
for long minutes his eyes listening unafraid
and not wanting to interrupt I studied his face
then the vast blue sky
in silence       and the next day
I raised the blinds for him again      just in case his eyes
which were open unblinking fixed
could feel the light
because a tear ran out each corner
once or twice     and I didn’t know if it meant something
or nothing
because he couldn’t speak or chose not to or
was past speech
and because I want the sentence to lead me somewhere
as if the ending could be an answer
because the hour is here again and the blue
is shining through voluptuous clouds
I keep looking
The chair is empty
For days no one has come to the table
moved the papers
written  a line
No one has raised the shades
looked out the cold window
No one has seen the sky from there
Through the eyes
of that room
There’s no touch no plan
no arranging
There’s no trying to begin
or end
It’s a useless room
No one uses it
Even so
the room is there
Behind the door
A chair a table three windows sky
I walk in here
It’s the stillest room in the house
The door closes behind me
Light pours in
and warms the silence
in which I listen
in which nothing needs to happen
whatever happens
About the Poet
Hilary Sallick’s chapbook, Winter Roses, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, and her poems have appeared recently in the Aurorean, Third Wednesday, and The Human Journal. She is an adult literacy teacher in Somerville, MA, and the vice-president of the New England Poetry Club.