In the absence of a departure

I had a dream early this morning
where I saw an entire poem written out
one I had never heard of
by Denise Levertov
and when I woke up, I remembered six words:

“In the absence of a departure”

That was all
This was both the first line and the title
The rest of the lines
fell away with waking

I spent the day with this absence
unsure if I was coming or going
departing or arriving
losing the poem or discovering the poem
forgetting or remembering
writing the lines myself
or simply eavesdropping on Denise Levertov in a dream
(Somehow I don’t think she would mind)

Early, I rested in the gently swinging hammock
then later in the rain I ran,
warm skin soft
cried in the shower in
the absence
of a departure date
the fingerprints
of dream poems half-mast
white masks, a girl on a Ferris wheel, the year-go-round
circling high above the night world

So when my own daughter told me
it’s not a dream
I believed her, of course
I asked her if she would be afraid
and she said yes
I wondered what absences
she will face someday
and who will she stand in some train station awaiting
as the names of fallen cities flip
indifferently above
Lisbon Madrid Paris Rome Istanbul Dubrovnik Prague Copenhagen
Where will she travel
what smells, what songs,
what sensations will draw her out into the world
to join the cascade of light
the two-for-one, what midnight specials?

in the absence of a departure
I am sitting on my bags by the front door
the way the Russians do for good luck before a journey

In the absence

I am
a departure

staring up at the arrivals board
running through the night streets
looking for the door
of the house
where I will wake
from the dream
able to finally remember the rest of the poem

Posted in: Uncategorized

7 thoughts on “In the absence of a departure

  1. Beth Patterson says:

    Dearest Jena–
    Reminds me of some lines from Hamlet, especially the ‘absent thee from felicity’:

    O good Horatio, what a wounded name,
    Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
    If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
    Absent thee from felicity awhile,
    And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
    To tell my story (V, ii).

    Thanks for the postcard from your edge, mi amore–we’re with you, cheering, pondering, loving you.



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