Keats at the Condo Association

 

 

 

Today, an older woman, slight with silver hair and a big smile, came to my line.  I think she looked at me and said, “Oh, the poet!”

I guess she must have checked out with me before.

We spoke briefly about some of our favorite contemporary poets, and I ventured to tell her about an interesting dream I had a few months ago.  In my dream, I was in a vast apartment complex.  There was no concept of any “outside”.  There was just a huge complex of houses, schools, gyms, pools, even parks with artificial lighting- but no contact with the sun or the air.  In this reality, people lived only inside.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps the surface had been made uninhabitable by human folly.  Anyway, in my travels through the endless maze of galleries and corridors I stumbled upon a condominium holders’ meeting.  There were about a hundred people, listening to their president, a woman in her mid-fifties.  I sat down, and she somehow recognized me and said, “Mahiruha- would you kindly come up and recite a poem for us?”

I didn’t know these people or how this woman had known my name!  But I went up to the microphone and everyone fell silent and I recited the following poem by John Keats:

“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever—or else swoon to death.”

 

 

Such a beautiful poem!  It’s strange- I wasn’t always able to recite or recall poems in my dreams.

Anyway, when I had finished speaking, I saw an African American woman in the front row of the audience, wearing a white t-shirt on which featured a quotation from JRR Tolkien: “The Road goes ever on and on…”

And that was the dream!  The lady I was speaking to asked me what I felt that dream meant, and I told her that the poem I recited “Bright Star” is the last poem that Keats wrote before his death.  It is a meditation on death.  The star represents the lofty, unattainable dreams he knows he will not be able to fulfil in his life.  But, there is consolation.  Yes, he, the poet- John Keats, will soon die- but the star is steadfast.  The hope is always there.  Also, the images of falling, of swelling, of snow, of a mask falling to earth, of watching, of ripening- these are all images of life.  Death is not separate from life, but a condition of it.  Also, the quote from “Lord of the Rings”- The road goes ever on and on- reminds me that we are all eternal travelers.

The woman then told me that she has been fighting pancreatic cancer for the last four years.  It is in remission now, but she knows it will return.  She told me she liked my dream, and can relate to it, and liked the idea of us being eternal travelers.  We wished each other well with a smiling “ciao!” and I went on to ring up more customers.

 

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