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The Dream

dreamed spring 1974? by John Hollander
I run down the streets
Of dim houses, low,
Narrow and of few
Windows, looking down
Corners to find her.

There she stands under
An unlit streetlamp,
Smiling with someone
Else over what had
Been our own old joke.

Then I wake, moaning.
Why, O why? All this
Need not have been a dream:
It is what I see
With my opened eye.

Why does sleep reveal
What the day has not
Hidden, as if it
Were a dark secret
My heart could not keep?


Readers who came here from John Hollander's intricate, layered The Train, expecting more of the same, will be shocked at this dream's naked simplicity. Both poems deal with the breakup of a twenty-year relationship, but The Train looks at shared dreams, at how our individual selves run parallel, merge at infinity (or bedtime), and how we undo that weaving (most often badly)... while The Dream's just a raw wound.

Though thoughtful, still, as one expects from Hollander. The waking verses... "All this need not have been a dream: it is what I see with my opened eye. Why does sleep reveal what the day has not hidden?" could be a jotting from Freud or Jung's dream-journal. For a century now, dream-theorists have pushed this idea that dreams don't come to tell us what we already know. And dreams like this keep coming!

For what it's worth, I've had these dreams too, salting emotional wounds. And they only fade when I go beyond acknowledging, beyond knowledge, into action. A hard lesson for intellectuals I think. (Ha. I think. And think...)

The Dream (and The Train) are from John Hollander's fascinating collection Blue Wine (© Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979; reprinted with permission).

LISTS AND LINKS: loneliness - grief - privacy - jealousy - love - nocturnes - romantic advice in dreams (not all of it this harsh) - dreamwork - dream poetry - more John Hollander: The Train

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