It’s 1:30 in the morning in Michigan — so, Thanksgiving, technically — and my tiny, flailing daughter is wide awake. I do what I can — I talk to her in rhyme, or I half-sing tracks from The Velvet Underground and Nico, or I recite Ogden Nash ditties, or I read her John Berryman’s Dream Songs. Here’s the Dream Song I’ve been thinking about tonight:
My daughter’s heavier. Light leaves are flying.
Everywhere in enormous numbers turkeys will be dying
and other birds, all their wings.
They never greatly flew. Did they wish to?
I should know. Off away somewhere once I knew
Or good Ralph Hodgson back then did, or does.
The man is dead whom Eliot praised. My praise
follows and flows too late.
Fall is grievy, brisk. Tears behind the eyes
almost fall. Fall comes to us as a prize
to rouse us toward our fate.
My house is made of wood and it’s made well,
unlike us. My house is older than Henry;
that’s fairly old.
If there were a middle ground between things and the soul
or if the sky resembled more the sea,
I wouldn’t have to scold my heavy daughter.
The Poetry Foundation and Academy of American Poets have each compiled a list of Thanksgiving poems, yet neither list contains this tender, enigmatic Dream Song — the last in Berryman’s original series. I’d say more about the poem (my God, that heartbreaking turn: “Did they wish to? / I should know”; and also: damn you, WordPress, for not allowing me to get the poem’s spacing right) . . . but it’s late, and I need to get back to my not-so-heavy daughter. Instead I’ll quote Amy Gerstler (in her inspired Introduction to The Best American Poetry 2010) quoting Keats: “Here are the Poems — they will explain themselves — as all poems should do without any comment.”