A Dream and Other Poems

A Dream

Ford Madox Ford himself would be amused
That this book he inscribed to a young lady
On October 23, 1938, in New York City,
One Mademoiselle Denise Ash—if I read
His writing right—lies open on my desk.

Someone learned of my collector’s interest
In the finer points of this autographed edition,
The March of Literature: From Confucius’
Day to Our Own.
I read it first at twenty-one,
Then passed it on to one friend, then another,
Several copies lost and found in bookstores
Now abandoned to the online trade.
I wanted a clean one with the author’s name
Written in his graceful hand, a book he’d held
As he held the pen that wrote the heavy book
That sums up all he’d read and learned
In a lifelong lover’s quarrel with literature,
As much as any man could ever know
In one life of four thousand years of books
In ten languages, works he knew by heart.

So one day I saw this ad online
For an item I never could afford,
But longing, still inquired of the seller
Just what were the words of the inscription?
And weeks later received the full transcription:
“With affection and admiration and the realization
That réalité irréalisée n’est que rêve.”
This is what Ford wrote to the French girl
Who, I like to imagine, was still young
And desirable to Ford, who would die soon:
“That reality unattained was just a dream.”

And so I dreamed of the impossible book,
Then thought no more of it, or of the dealer
Who buys and sells without bricks and mortar,
Invisible as the collectors who hunt online,
Hoping to own what they cannot afford.
I never got his address, nor he mine.

Weeks later I received this brown envelope,
The book enclosed carelessly, without padding,
Without letterhead or bill of lading;
Only the return address, a farm somewhere
In the foothills of the Berkshire mountains,
Somewhere I will never visit, although
I tried once or twice to get an answer.

The Watchmen

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