Mouthful of Earth (A Brief Dream of Edward Thomas)

Thoughtful Edward Thomas

I was sure of the name of one of the ghosts;
instantly I knew it, in a dream without names
although, for a ghost, he was more like the ghost of a ghost
with his white unsunned skin and wrongly faintly red hair.
Choose to approach him? But all choice was numb:
the chill in his eyes was the spitting image of Antarctic-blue ice
or invincible reserve, not to be distributed. I willed my face
to disturb my dreaming mouth and quote his own lines back at him by heart —
Whatever happens it must befall, / A mouthful of earth
to remedy all /
Regrets and wishes shall freely be given . . . —

but my hoarse will by then could make no more noise
and when I forced a meeting through my haphazard orbitings
he half-looked at me only to look right through me, like paper,
as if I were the ghost and not worth his greeting,
as if transparent eagerness were the one precise flaw
that made my sighting so simply insubstantial. Yet unmistakably
he was there, even without a voice,
warding me off, watchful, difficult, uneasy, calling me gracefully
into question — or focus — or being — or something
beyond any dream, with a clarity that wasp-stings
even dead-weight sleepers bolt upright from torpor.

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