EDWARD BYRNE

 
 
NIGHT VISION 

        What for the visions of the night?  Our life is so safe 
        and regular that we hardly know the emotion of terror . . . . 
        And yet dreams acquaint us with what the day omits. 
                                —Ralph Waldo Emerson 
 

In the small park behind our home, the trees 
        stand as straight and stark as upended broomsticks, 

as if all day they've been sweeping clean the now 
        dark and now cloudless sky.  An intricate network 

of branches catches the wind and some long limbs 
        scratch against one another like scissors blades 

slicing a sheet of unseen paper.  Tonight, awakened 
        by a dream, I unwrapped myself from the intimate 

sleep-twist of your body, searched the corners 
        for those clothes I had thrown off in haste only 

hours earlier, and staggered out, half-consciously, 
        into the moonless night air blackened beyond barren 

patches of garden plots and sour mulch-heaps 
        that spot our yard.  Alone, beside the lined practice 

grounds, where all day padded boys endlessly 
        toss footballs to one another, or young fathers 

earnestly sail multi-colored kites above a jagged 
        edge of bared treetops for their children, I reviewed 

that vision I had seen in sleep.  Somehow, there, 
        among the stone tables and the wooden benches, 

I once more felt childlike, again imagined 
        the setting that had come to me in bed—the open 

field, the bright sky—and pictured myself racing 
        across a meadow, chasing after the fading image 

of my father (outlined, as if in eclipse, against 
        a strong summer sun slung low over the horizon, 

just rising), the way I often would have done. 
        In my dream, you were also there: lost, crying 

out as if in pain (still the woman you are 
        today, except three decades misplaced), unsure 

which direction to travel toward home, hoping 
        someone would find you, wondering who was this 

boy rushing past you and where was he going. 
        I, too, didn't know who you were, and never would 

know.  Even now, as I stand beneath these empty 
        trees and this star-filled sky, I still see the agony 

in your face as you seemed hurt by my going, 
        and I try to explain why I couldn't help you—

I was only a child passing by, running toward 
        blinding sunlight, following my father's shadow. 
 
 


[ First appeared in The Literary Review


 
 

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