Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dream Waif: a poem

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I watched an intriguing DVD last night titled The Secret (not to be confused with the 2006 documentary based on the mass-seller book recommended by Oprah). The 2008 movie, reviewed here, stars David Duchovny as an opthalmologist who loses his wife, sorta... then his daughter, sorta. The wife has uniquely intense exposure to the daughter's teen existence for a time that provides an opportunity to take inventory of her own life's path. In the mix is a drug scene that was oh so familiar.

The parent-child/parent-teen dynamic is something I lived through only one-sided, never as the parent of a child or teen. Even so, when I read old poems that I wrote in adolescence I've sometimes taken that inventory, reviewed what was there and who I was. Not to understand or help a child of mine, but to understand and to heal the child that was me.

My husband delves deeply into the mystery and pain in his childhood, where I'm more prone to skim over mine. I'm not sure why, but I'm more detached from mine. So when I pulled out this old poem I read it first with the detachment of a critic. Then I read it again and saw that I was describing my budding alcoholism without that being my intention. I see real defiance and fragility here. But the poem wasn't a cry for help. More like a salutation and surrender to something I couldn't control and, in fact, embraced for a long time. As the 23rd anniversary of my sobriety approaches in mid-October, this early poem is a reminder of the grace that separated me from the mess my life became as the years went by.

Dream Waif

Just a thought
before I fade.
Gotta hurry
Before I’m made
As the dream-waif.
They may see
I’m doomed to sleep—
fluffed comfort then
mine to keep
if just allowed to gently fade.
Gotta hurry
Before I’m made
As the dream-waif.

Threatening they creep—
pouncing if they once discover
I’m the dream-waif.

Guards of the ego
with pieces of dreams
bragging of assets—
and veil their schemes
to remain creep-cling creatures
with only one mission:
Of the dream-waif,

The nightmare army
won’t come far
attempting to tear me
off this star.
The warmth is soothing
deeper still.
It won’t be long
the wait
I’ll be encompassed
by the calm;
I’ll be surrounded
with the dawn.

For them, the bog.
For me,
the balm.

© MLydiaM "Lydia" 1969


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Wow - that's very expressive and well-formed for someone so young! Whenever i look at the things i wrote when i was 17 i just want to curl up with embarrassment.

Actually - a friend of mine wrote a letter to himself as a school project, aged 12, and found it years later - he said it was like getting a letter from a stranger. I guess it was a similar thing for you?

Great stuff - and very dark in places xx

Petrea said...

I hope that, even when you read it critically, you saw it as a fine work. I agree with don't feed the pixies.

Hi Lydia. I thought of you today. I'm glad to come here and find this melancholy poem. It reminds me of visiting an AA meeting with a friend who was receiving her 7 year birthday cake; she invited me to come as support. Another speaker at that meeting gave thanks for his alcoholism. There were a few gasps until he explained that his life had been so dark for a while that if he hadn't had alcohol to escape into, he might have chosen a more final escape.

Congratulations on your 23 years!

Lily Hydrangea said...

from my own small experience with myself and my son, I think adolescents are a lot more in touch with certain truths in life even though we may not fully comprehend their meaning. It seems to me that we are given knowledge where we just "know" certain things and then we are given the rest of our lives (if we are lucky) to sort it out.
It really is amazing that you wrote that poem at such a young age and you are able to know where you were coming from so many years later. Your sobriety is amazing and inspiring. Happy Anniversary Lydia!

Lydia said...

Your kind comments mean a lot to me. Believe me, there are some poems from back then that are totally embarrassing. But still, as you suggest with the incident your friend experienced, they are snippets of truths forgotten. I, btw, would really love to read something written by the 17-year-old you.

I truly appreciate your comments about the poem.

Nothing really surprises me anymore, but you have been on my mind the last few days! So it's great to reconnect. I know how much your support meant to your friend; you're awesome to accompany her on that special occasion. Your celebratory comments on my own special passage make me feel blessed!

Yes! I know what you mean. There was a flash moment of knowing I experienced at about 16, this sense that I "knew" everything already, or had once known it, and I simply needed to not panic and let it come to me. I'm not explaining it very well, but I'll never forgot the day. In observing the tweens and teens in our neighborhood, all whom I consider friends, I see their wisdom. You make me realize that I should perhaps let them know that I see it...
Thanks so much for your good wishes!

francessa said...

Hi Lydia,

This is a beautiful poem!

I read the poem first, then your post and comments, don't ask me why!

As regards the contents: Of course, you're the best interpreter of your own self, but I want to add that after the first reading I thought this must have been written in a time of change and inner growth. There's fragility and defiance in there, as you say, but also a (albeit weak) developing sense of self-protection (gotta hurry... the nightmare army won't come far...)

Lisa Allender said...

Lydia, Hi--first, Congratulations on your sobreity!
I loved the "dark edges" of your poem, and am surprised it can sound so mature, as you wrote it so very young.
In response to something you posted awhile ago, at my blog, regarding uh, spirituality--I think you already ARE quite spiritual, Lydia.
"Religion is for people who are scared of going to hell; Spirituality is for people who've already been there."
A friend of mine who is a recovering alcoholic told me she heard that phrase--where else?--at an AA meeting!

Lydia said...

Thank, Francessa! That you see an even weak developing sense of self-protection is fascinating. I'll be sure to share this with Mike as follow-up to a conversation we had this weekend....

Thanks for your comments about the poem and my sobriety. I really love that quote your friend shared with you! Because AA wasn't my healing place I love hearing gems gathered there from others. And I thank you so much for validating my quest for spirituality.

Lisa Allender said...

You are so welcome, Lydia! You rock.

Jennifer said...

Congratulations on 23 years of sobriety.

I agree with the comments here, and it's interesting how you characterize the poem as a "salutation and surrender." The stuff I wrote as a 17-year-old was mainly dreck (and I never attempted poetry -- that was my mother's domain), but the feelings were intense and real. You captured those feelings well.

Lydia said...


Thanks for your good wishes. Believe me, I cannot imagine anything you ever wrote would have been dreck (great word; I had to look it up! - see what I mean?).....

rachael said...


thank you so much for emailing me about this post! i can't believe i missed reading it.

i agree with what everyone else before me has said - this poem is so well-written and although i can't personally identify with what you were going through, you had & still continue to have a way with writing that seems to just resonate so well with me, and i'm sure many others. it's really a gift!

congratulations on your 23 year anniversary (:

Lydia said...

Thanks for your special comments. I really value your opinion.
I'm so happy for you that you can't personally identify with this poem! :)



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