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Atlantis:
2: Reprieve

Dreamed c. 1993 by Mark Doty and Wally Roberts
written by Mark Doty

I woke in the night
and thought, It was a dream,

nothing has torn the future apart,
we have not lived years

in dread, it never happened,
I dreamed it all.
And then

there was this sensation of terrific pressure
lifting, as if I were rising

in one of those old diving bells,
lightening, unburdening. I didn't know

how heavy my life had become--so much fear,
so little knowledge. It was like

being young again, but I understood
how light I was, how without encumbrance--

and so I felt both young and awake,
which I never felt

when I was young. The curtains moved
--it was still summer, all the windows open--

and I thought, I can move that easily.
I thought my dream had lasted for years,

a decade, a dream can seem like that,
I thought, There's so much more time...

And then of course the truth
came floating back to me.

You know how children
love to end stories they tell

by saying, It was all a dream? Years ago,
when I taught kids to write,

I used to tell them this ending spoiled things,
explaining and dismissing

what had come before. Now I know
how wise they were, to prefer

that gesture of closure,
their stories rounded not with a sleep

but a waking. What other gift
comes close to a reprieve?

This was the dream that Wally told me:
I was in the tunnel, he said,

and there really was a light at the end,
and a great being standing in the light.

His arms were full of people, men and women,
but his proportions were all just right-I mean

he was the size of you or me.
And the people said, Come with us,

we're going dancing. And they seemed so glad
to be going, and so glad to have me

join them, but I said,
I'm not ready yet.
I didn't know what to do,

when he finished,
except hold the relentless

weight of him, I didn't know
what to say except, It was a dream,

nothing's wrong now,
it was only a dream.

SOURCE: "Atlantis" is a set of six poems by Mark Doty; it's the heart of his 1994 collection Atlantis. Three of the six are dream-centered. The World Dream Bank normally excludes nondream poems, but these are so powerful and compassionate I've made an exception and posted all six: 1 Faith - 2 Reprieve - 3 Michael's Dream - 4 Atlantis - 5 Coastal - 6 New Dog



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