in the dream last night there was a chain of us, almost,
making our way along
a very deadly, high-mountain pass.
it was dark night with ominous clouds even darker
obscuring, maybe, a moon.
slowly my eyes made out
that this narrow path was
crumbling here and there beneath our feet,
and all was long shrieking plunges
into painful death, below.
i could never see my companions.
they were heard, but lost
in the dream somewhere behind me.
confirmed that the sheer wall to our left,
against which we quaked and shimmied
with careful terrified steps,
so this sheer cliff face
had been helpfully
if dimly illuminated,
but to the right lay the precipice.
... it was a nightmare, anyway,
with or without allegory.
the terror drowning my lungs
and giving my sleeping limbs
the tight skittish fear of death
was real enough,
and as i stopped to examine
an especially perilous patch of
disintegrating mountain pass before me,
my eyes adjusted quite well enough
to see an old man, clearly a tourist
wearing the garb of a spaced-out new-comer,
come around the bend
much less carefully than I
this almost comically obvious,
parlous unstable section of Mount Fear.
he appeared to have a kind of
witless, tottery, cartoonish walk.
he was a hapless
retired american and here he came,
looking up at the sky
and around him in vacated wonderment,
to the many pitfalls of Doom Dream Mountain.
it all happened so fast and real...
and me with the dream shackles
binding me, could only manage
a sluggish warning of "Sir..."
there was a tragic misstep or three as the ground broke apart,
and he wheeled
and tottered and was very soon grasping
at the solitary spindly tree
that grew at the tip of the deadly outcrop.
his terror lashed out,
his stiff body cracked
with the whiplash greed for life,
his eyes flared with
a whimper and a look of childish helplessness,
his throttled cries wounded me as the cries of
a dying person who expects help from you but will get none
should be expected to wound.
the doomed retiree faced me and held on
with his old arms, and his eyes,
staring, held onto me.
they were slanted almost,
and i don't recall whether i continued
to feel both the surprise
and yet the old calm, practiced contempt
for his peasant vacationer's stupidity, or not.
i was mostly preoccupied with
it was very basic calculus i performed in deciding
not even to try to help
the old fellow.
My dream-body was too important, my dream-life too precious.
the terror was huge in me
and i looked at the maddening crumbling ground beneath
that no sane hiker would ever venture across,
and felt much less than heroic.
what careless suicides
these hikers are, i thought.
the old-timer whose time had come did not make noise at all
while he stared around wildly,
conserving his energy
in those last bleak moments of life,
petrified by fear of the movement that little calls
for help would cause.
To plead was to kill himself.
that has to be
one of the most frightening things possible.
like a cloud of death angels surrounding my heart
i could feel what he was feeling
as i put him out of my mind
and considered how to make my way back down the path,
and not forward.
even in the hull of my own
i am afraid