THE SCENERY OF DREAMS


Where the estuary suddenly narrows

and the river begins its slow bends

through the valley, white smoke is drifting

from a thicket of trees where egrets roost.

The birds are rising, like sudden flags

fluttered, bright cloths flung into the air,

their dry, rattling calls echoing

across the empty river just at its flow.

 

Above where the sage hills become lilac

mountains, beyond where the invaders

ever went, high on the summer pastures

with the sheep fattening for the valley,

the shepherd sleeps in a ruined cottage

and dreams of wild goats nobody counts.

He does not hear the shotgun’s blast nor breathe

the black smoke that gouts from the tumbled stones.

 

She saw the dark plume first then the yellow-white

scatter of the sheep then the lick of orange

and last the birds over the river

and the wisp of smoke drift as her boat dipped

and bucked against the now ebbing tide.

The thud of water kept her in ignorance

as the flags snapped at the stern. She steered

towards discovery and desolation.

 

 

Note: The title is taken from the last paragraph of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dedication to his friend, Charles Baxter, in the first edition of his novel, ‘Kidnapped’ – http://robert-louis-stevenson.classic-literature.co.uk/kidnapped/ebook-page-02.asp

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  1. #1 by Ian Craine - January 28th, 2017 at 09:17

    What superb use of language.

  2. #2 by Hugh Powell - February 8th, 2017 at 10:45

    And a strong sense of mystery and the impending. Modestly ignorant, I am intrigued by the reference to RLS in the tags, and deduce that a fine blend of known topography, literature and the imagination awaits…….

  3. #3 by David Selzer - February 9th, 2017 at 15:04

    I think you’re entitled to be ignorant, even immodestly so. The title is taken from the last paragraph of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dedication to his friend, Charles Baxter, in the first edition of his novel, ‘Kidnapped’ – http://robert-louis-stevenson.classic-literature.co.uk/kidnapped/ebook-page-02.asp. In response to your comment and that (orally) of another critical friend I’ve put a note re the origin of the title and thus the tag on the relevant website page.

  4. #4 by Alan Horne - March 20th, 2017 at 22:00

    Thanks for including the Stevenson reference. The poem seems to have all sorts of layers, which are multiplied by a reading of the ‘Kidnapped’ dedication.

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