Selected Poems II


Mark DuCharme

from Alchemical Nod


The mind’s a state
        You wrap yourself in,
As dreams are wrapped
        In sleep’s dark oceans

The mind adrift
        Dives further in
& Yet again
        ’Til dreams reflect

Mind’s gauzy screen,
        Or else you dip
Back up, toward surface
        Then dive still further

To dissolve at last
        In depthless pleasure


In sleep, you dissolve. You lose yourself
        & Boundaries
                        Between Self & Mind &

World outside
        Melt away. You are a freely floating
Flower, a perceiving
                                    State of grace

                Afloat (not religiously)
        With no stem to tether
    You to the physical
World, but the body,
                        Which has been temporarily overcome

You are afloat in the sea
        Of Sleep’s imma-
                                    terial majesty—

Where you do nothing at all.


On the NPR program
I learned that some
                                    Psychologists now think
Identity’s little
                            More than a narrative,
        A tale we tell ourselves, recounting

                    The shape of who we are.

            Dreaming has always seemed to me
To likewise be        a narrative,

    A narrative our minds must make
                    In order to be ourselves, fruitfully.

By contrast, if you read
            Of Freud’s methodology
        In interpreting dreams, certain processes
Emerge, which would be familiar
    To any able poet:

                    * Free association
                    * Condensation (Cf. Pound’s
                                “Condensare” & Niedecker’s
                    * Displacement
                    * Dramatization

So then, are narrative & poetry
Both necessary
            To make sense of the world?—

        My resounding answer:


O, to be ready to go to sleep
Before Sleep’s bloom unfurls
Like a lover gone absentmindedly iffy,
Sleep’s an inconstant companion.
We got along just fine last night,
But now She will have none of my
Overtures, even though the agreed-on
Hour is at hand. O Sleep,
I don’t really have to get up in the morning
For once!— Why stand me up now?
Haven’t I been good to you, Sleep—
You, with your eyes fixed so intently
On Death, whom You would adore?


What is a person, & where is Sleep?
I once wrote a work personifying
An idea or anima, in the form of
A dialogue between She & me
In which She tore me apart, but I, cowardly
            Allowed my alter-ego the last word.
Now the parts of that poem which seem most
Are all in the anima’s ‘voice,’ not ‘mine.’
                                                                    The other

Cowardly thing I did was cut
That poem from the work it belonged to
When the time came to publish the book—
Although I later ‘restored’ it by inclusion
In another volume.
                                    I think

Of these things, because, here
In this poem, I am personifying ‘Sleep,’ a mythical
Character, & female
Projection, no doubt, of my own male ego
Without giving She herself a chance
                To respond—

That chance (however slim)
I once gave the character ‘X’

Don’t men already do enough speaking
    Over Women’s voices?

& If I use the words ‘character’ or ‘voice’
Then might this poem also be a play

Or a text questioning its authorship?
Or a seed searching for roots?
Or a gambler’s chip, violently tossed?
Or a memory of summers lost?
Or a rhetorical accident/incident?
Or a rehearsal for something amazing?—

                Even as I still wait for Sleep’s
                Great engines to start churning


One can be deprived of sleep, but one
Can also be deprived
Of poetry. Large swaths
Of the US population are on
Poetry withdrawal. This explains
Much of what is laughingly called
Our national discourse.

If you want to have a discourse,
Awaken the moon
& Inveigh her not to pull her hair, like some
Of my female students do.
Inquire when things were better. Make lists
Of how to enliven life & the life
                                                    Of the mind.
Fear not the passage of time, for summer
Always returns, though sometimes more gaudily.

I have walked into the black look where
The moon is narrow weather
Seeming interstitially to sway upon its stem of pulpy trees
Who’re all fathomed by the night
Having hunkered in the weight of dusky skies.

When does my own shadow fear me?

In the preternatural touch of Autumn, with gold-tipped flora swaying
Impatient for the secular divine amidst
The well-dressed, pampered phone gazers (& those gazers not so well dressed)
Swaying like lazy, peripatetic wallflowers into the
Midst of all that’s new 


Poetry, very much like dreams
Keeps its meanings hidden,
        Yet there to be discovered
    As The Sleeper 1  rises & ponders
His position in the narrative, poem, or day

The world of our days is shuttling
The world of our nights is cold
Dream life, too, is sketchy
Sacred / scared / scarred
I keep miswriting simple words
Have I entered the dream state lucidly?
Can I trust my own memory
            Replete with nonsense
    Like a halo of birds & their coronals
                    Of sunlight?

Trust your memory
Scream like birds at the day
Remind me to laugh
        Wicked as any survivor
            Of desire’s scorching day

 1 The Sleeper was the appellation given by Ted Berrigan to the protagonist of his only novel, Clear the Range. 

Dusk as central ambulance to [I don’t know what is imparted]
I know, but still don’t want
As if imagining all dreams, or
Layers of the primitive. Be done with

Where the dream
Is only part of the dream, if it is anything
At all.
& If it isn’t, whom do I call
If I want perverse lampshade arrangements
With mnemonic drills & fireworks
Jerking out the plain?


Recant. Dusk is primitive
Move, then go
Away while stopping. All is
Dusk. Incantatory
Fragments. An accident
Of aromatic numbers
Stealing to believe