The Dark Chateau by Walter de la Mare

DREAM STATE POEM: The Dark Chateau
By Walter de La Mare
(from The Listeners and Other Poems, 1916)

This is an ominously rich poem in which the dreamer, and only the dreamer, stands before a once-glorious chateau, now ruinous and frightening — willing and wishing to enter… only in dreams. Walter de La Mare began writing short stories and poetry while working as a bookkeeper in the 1890s. He wrote poetry, stories, and novels, and gained renown for his work in children’s literature. Themes of dream-like imaginations and visions are a consistent through line throughout his entire body of work, most especially pronounced in his poetry.

Have you visited a dark chateau, in your dreams?

This is excerpted from my twice-monthly newsletter The Falling Dream, which features some of the key ingredients for dreams. Subscribe here.

Collage: Kevin Sampsell Is Always Puttin’ on the Ritz

I had to make a collage about Kevin Sampsell, because he’s the one who inspired me to start playing around with collage-making. If you know Kevin’s work, this collage (“Kevin Sampsell Is Always Puttin’ on the Ritz”) will probably make sense. If you don’t know anything at all about Kevin, I encourage you to check out his books, writing, small press publishing venture, and yes, collage art. In fact, he has a book coming out from Clash Books this summer featuring a collection of his poems and collages. Great creative groundbreaking projects all around, and I recommend checking out all of it.

New Year Poem (2022)

I had the thought of a poem today. It was pretty good actually. Something to put on a card and send to people. Something hopeful about the new year. I thought of it while running in the park. All the leaves have fallen. It was freezing. I felt alive.

Later that night, I realized I couldn’t remember anything about it. Not the words, or even the concept.

That poem is gone.

Would you say that the poem never existed?

I trust your answer more than ever, given our shared expertise in distancing.

What can I tell you about the new year? I read aloud once again that Mithridates, he died old. This is a tradition. Each year, it feels like it has more resonance. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the words, just the fact that it’s a poem I was introduced to back in the old days and it has stayed with me all these years (adding a new one now, given the new year).

Things that make an impression in youth and stick with you compound meaning. New grooves weave their way into the marks and scrapes and scars of old.

That old poem, the one I first heard so long ago, is here now, the same as it ever was, but also, telling me something new.

Words will come, words will go. And on that late night subway ride home, staring into the darkness and the hint of a reflection of you, the words will be recalled. Perhaps we’ve shared that moment, but betrayed nothing in our momentary exchange of a glance.

Let the relentlessness of lost time forge the memory of how we express what we share from a distance.

These are the pieces of us that will come together for whatever happens next.

This is what I was thinking about while trying to remember, recalling that all the leaves have fallen, when it was freezing.

This is the poem.

— Jeffrey Yamaguchi, January 1, 2022

Slowly Each Step Until It’s Time to Fall

Thinking back to how it was done before
never mind last year
or the one before that
this time when the moment comes
to think about what happens next
like calculating an exact amount of rain
from a storm in the distance
followed by a generous heaping
of sunlight without any clouds
you will stir from underneath the shelter of
the old tree in the backyard of your youth
and catch the season’s final falling leaf

The Place We Imagined Separately

After sending several telegrams
back and forth
hinting at stories untold
we finally agree to meet

Back to the early days
instead of you being over there
and me having just left
we know exactly where to go

The place we imagined separately
where there’s a light snow on the ground
and our voices are carried by winds
that haven’t yet left the sea

You tell me what’s never happened
I share a story that will someday unfold
this is all in an unwritten letter
that was lost in the mail

Embracing the bond of our silence
we stare at ourselves across the way
watching us take our leave
never to say goodbye

New Project: The Falling Dream

Book Review: Whimsy

Whimsy by Shannon McLeod is a wonderful novella, an emotional story about a young woman who is dealing with scars both internal and external. A tragedy has happened in the past, a traumatic experience that haunts her — but the dramatics of that event and the immediate aftermath are in the distance. What this story explores is the quiet echoes and jagged ripples of guilt that continue to impact how she experiences and perceives where she’s at right now — the usual goings on in life — work, dating, family. I was impressed with this exploration — so thoughtful and raw and nuanced. Most definitely worth a read.

My review on Goodreads.

The Silence in Between Questions

Recalling a phone call
I didn’t answer
and the conversation we had
while the ringing and ringing continued

This was well after we had disconnected the line

You asked how I …
Where had I …
When I would …

The silence in between the questions
is what I remember most

It was a lesson
and the beginning of a quest
I can not hear it so clearly now
even in this stillness
especially when no one is around