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A series of brief, haunting lyrics and prose fragments, the poems in As for Dream hover in suspension between states of consciousness or being. Hamilton's verse both illustrates and investigates the human experience at many different intervals: as we wake from the dream world, as we meet the loss or disruption of our desires, as we tend to the ill, and as we die. Once we cross those boundaries, does the self remain intact? These poems record and question moments when we slip from the casing of the body and the social world and try to make our way back, or find we cannot.
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About the Author
Poetry and prose by Saskia Hamilton has appeared in the Threepenny Review, Kenyon Review, McSweeney's Quarterly, and Colorado Review, among other journals. She is also the recipient of a Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Read an Excerpt
The Song in the Dream
The song itself had hinges. The clasp on the eighteenth-century Bible
had hinges, which creaked; when you released the catch,
the book would sigh and expand.
The song was of two wholes joined by hinges,
and I was worried about the joining, the spaces in between
the joints, the weight of each side straining them.
Late Winter Rain
Reverie is the word.
He is not attentive to you so you are not attentive to the world.
All it takes is one apology for you to wake up.
But it has to be the right apology.
In the Hospital
Will you hand me the bulbs?
I have to plant them, he said, but I can't reach them.
The attendant came in and adjusted a dial.
Still she did not get up from the chair.
You know, were his last words,
You really are very lazy.
He was buried during the hunger winter. The ground was wet and
not as soft as he had expected.
After the tulip bulb had boiled a long time, he had thought his
knife would go through it easily and the pulp inside would be
slightly pink, like the tips of the leaves of a young artichoke. But it
was sweet,and not to be eaten, and scratched his throat.
Where he was now, nobody knew; but sometimes his daughter
passed him in the street. And one summer, late in her life, she saw
him at her house almost every day. He stood at the foot of her bed
at night when she couldn't sleep, and couldn't tell
what it was he wanted.
So she talked to him and, when she ran out of things to say, she
read aloud from her book. The only other sound in the house was
the tick of small insects against the lamp-light.
End of Summer
What you are unable to make from this is what I want to eat.
What I am unable to make from this is what you want to eat.
Dream at Eighty-Four
Only when she sat down to write a letter did she remember:
She had to move, and she
And when she came to the new house,
the first floor was so full of debris, she could hardly
wade through it.
Her daughters felt like children on the days they came.
She wanted to say
it was too late to make amends;
but the work of this lifetime and the next weigh the same.
And waking from the dream was making room for death.
In the Garden
In the back garden, the tree above us was thinning and sickly. She
put the shears away and sat on the bench.
When her sister was dying of tuberculosis, she would read her letters
on the balcony away from the children and then burn them.
They were wrapped in layers of paper and sent from her mother,
who wrote on the envelopes, "Enclosed is a letter from Anna."
Her sister, she said, fell in love with the doctor during the last
years of her life. He helped her move into a little cottage on the
grounds of the sanitarium, and she would lie all day in bed, in
nightgowns that she embroidered very beautifully, and sew
dresses for the children (which had to be cooked in a kind of oven
before they were sent, so they were ruined), and write letters.
Once the children came and were allowed to wave at her from the
garden. This was one year before the war.
She often found she was in a long tunnel, walking in one direction
or the other, reaching neither destination. One day she gave up her
ambition to be a poet and the dream ended. She continued to write
letters. The distinction was simply formal.
She was not able to work in the garden as long as she used to, but it
was August, which meant that soon her daughter would come and
they would pack up the house. The roses luxuriated. She renamed
one bush Madame Récamier.
The House between Two Meadows
He had come too close. He was everywhere she walked, watching
her while she listened politely to the tea-time conversation, reaching
for her when she washed the dishes, lying beside her when she
went to bed. He was floating just beyond the limits of her body,
she almost kissed his lips when she drank from a glass, put her
mouth on his jeans when she sat at the table to work.
Sometimes, when it seemed a longing so cloying and unsolvable,
she would try to distract herself. But it wasn't until the rainstorm
on the fifteenth of August that she understood anything.
Her aunt was making a bed and they were talking about books.
The rain picked up and started to stream down the windows and
the house was blanketed and suddenly quite small. She thought of
the desk upstairs, the rain on the garden, so when they folded the
blanket and laid it at the foot of the bed, she climbed the stairs and
closed the door and sat down to work. A whole hour passed.
Who will help you? she thought. It's the weight of telling. Better
read a different book. Better sleep with someone else. Better do
anything than hold so still, you can almost feel him touching you.