This is one in a series of pandemic poems I’ve written since my initial quarantine. Many of the pieces that have resulted are unlike anything I’ve written before but it’s entirely understandable, of course. These times are unlike any we’ve known before.
The title of the piece is “Captive Audience” and stems from a dream I had a few nights ago. My dream held the seeds of the ideas and images I express here but as ever it is an inexplicable combination of elements that conspire to inspire. I wish it was as simple as just recording a dream I’ve had, which has happened to many writers. Amazingly, Kubla Khan came that way to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Here is the text of the poem:
The world is sharing a recurring dream.
Every night we fall asleep
and take up the very same challenge.
All of us are running for our lives
across a parched landscape,
shoulder to shoulder
in an endless line.
An elusive shape pursues us from behind.
We know not why.
All we hear as we race forward is the person next to us,
and the thunder of our thousands of feet
pounding the ground beneath.
Some of us tire more easily, falter, rest,
We are united in a common purpose,
In knowing there is nothing for us
but the outrunning of this,
Every time we glance backward
the specter looms closer,
changing shape with each turn of our heads.
One minute a tumbleweed six stories high,
made not of brush
but of thick snarled barbed wire.
Next, feral beasts snarling at our heels,
then, above our heads, out-sized birds of prey filling the skies,
circling ever closer.
Tomorrow night our predator will reappear,
In this same dream
all of us share a wish.
To awaken in our beds tomorrow morning,
having returned to the world
we once so blithely shared,
each of us knowing
all of it,
only a dream.