Patricia Fargnoli: "Dreamwork"




In my dream, I lay next to a man who was dying in a room

with many windows. I could feel the length of his body

against mine. I could feel the warmth of his breathing.


Our bodies seemed to flow, one into the other

as if we were two small rivers that had merged

and widened out into one long shining.


Around us the poets were commenting

on each other’s poems. I saw papers fluttering

as they passed them around. I could hear their voices


but not their words; poems weren’t important

to me anymore—only the man and the dying,

the stranger whom I loved because he was dying.


The poets went into the other room

for coffee and cakes, and I asked the man did he want

to be alone now, he told me no, stay here.


I shifted even closer to the life that was leaving.

When he seemed to be sleeping,

his breathing not regular anymore, 


I rose and straightened the covers around him

and then I lay down on the bed again.

The man’s body in its dying was a slim willow,


its leaves, gold and trailing.

He was supple and too young. He was quiet

for a long time, there was no struggle in him.


All day, now, I keep trying to get back to the body

of the man in the dream, his quiet arms,

his side whose muscles relaxed against my side,


relaxed against my warmth.

I didn’t know the man well enough to love him,

I don’t know why I dreamed of him


but the bed in the dream enlarged to fill the whole room

and there was love there, not passion. What I imagine

a mystic feels when the God he believes in envelops him.


All day, all day, images harden into ice.

It’s winter. The rooftops are heavy with snow

and a sheet of wild yellow light.



Patricia Fargnoli, the New Hampshire Poet Laureate from December 2006 to March 2009, is the author of six collections of poetry, including Then, Something (Tupelo Press, 2009). Her fifth collection, Duties of the Spirit (Tupelo Press, 2005) won the Jane Kenyon Literary Book Award for an Outstanding Book of Poetry and was a semifinalist for the Glasgow Prize. Her first book, Necessary Light (Utah State University Press, 1999) was awarded the May Swenson Poetry Award, judged by Mary Oliver. Her book Small Songs of Pain (Pecan Grove Press, 2003) is a collection of poems triggered by Chagall’s illustrations of LaFontaine’s fables. In addition she has published two chapbooks: Lives of Others (Oyster River Press, 2003) and Greatest Hits (Pudding House Press, 2003).