in memory of Reginald Shepherd
It is morning.
I sit at a table
writing a letter
with a needle and thread.
I pricked my finger A pelican
out of her migratory path,
even her language family—
whose child is gone
yet she absently pecks at her breast.
I write on the bedspread
I am making for you there
May you breathe deeply and easily.
If a person visits someone in a dream,
in some cultures the dreamer thanks them in the morning
for visiting their dream.
I call it dream
not that I am drawn to that which withdraws
but to him pearled, asleep, who never withdraws.
At a hotel in another star. The rooms were cold and
damp, we were both at the desk at midnight asking if
they had any heaters. They had one heater. You are
ill, please you take it. Thank you for visiting my dream.
Can you breathe all right?
Break the glass shout
break the glass force the room
break the thread Open
the music behind the glass.
Remember that blue vine? Grown
alongside the gate
Venus close as the moon
We can tell that the author is a warm heart person from the poem. In the poem she writes “They had one heater. You are ill, please you take it.” The author will sacrifice herself and satisfy other. This sentence also reply the title that if a person visits someone in a dream, in some cultures the dreamer thanks them. The author meet someone in the dream, she wants to thank him by giving him a heater. I feel so relax reading this poem. It just like remember her friend and talks about something happens between her and her friend. I can see the author miss Reginald very much because she cares about him. She says “Can you breathe all right?” She want to express the feeling that Reginald should be relax in the heaven and people here will miss you. Comment by Hongjie Pan — April 28, 2011 @ 3:45 pm
In the poem I thought author realized the daydream and tries to interpret the meaning of the dream. However, the author uses lots of descriptive senses. I really like the sentence “If a person visits someone in a dream, in some cultures the dreamer thanks them in the morning for visiting their dream”. I think this line is very significant because in my culture if someone sees someone in the dream they thank him or her as well. Sometimes we also visit the person. In this poem author started with positive hope and them but at the end I felt like some has died. Comment by Ripon Nath — April 29, 2011 @ 1:05 am
Professor Grace Schulman asked me to post this for her: “In Jean Valentine’s poem, there is great power in small details, such as the sewing needle used to stitch an elegy to a dead poet friend. The poem has astonishing depth, mysterious for its silences, drawing us into what is not said. Its taut, spare lines haunt us as they grow and flourish in our minds. It is moving. It is real.” Comment by Ely Shipley — April 30, 2011 @ 6:46 pm
There is a real touch of sadness throughout this poem, which starts with the dedication to the memory of Reginald Shepherd. It seems as if the poem was written after he died- the poet shows how selfless she would have been if given the chance. This reminds me of the song “How To Save a Life” by The Fray, particularly the lyric from the chorus, “I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life.” It’s a heartbreaking retrospective line that bleeds helplessness and longing.
Toward the end of the poem, Valentine gives thanks for the visiting to her dream. Usually, thanking someone for something like that would be a happy thing, but it holds an ironic value. She thanks him, but you can still feel her pain of knowing that her dreams are the only place where she can still see him. Comment by Travis Crowley — May 1, 2011 @ 1:11 pm
I like to believe the distortion that takes place is to make the reader feel as though they are in a dream. The random and erratic word place is but a means to convey indescribable emotions of sadness and lost. The lost of a love one is foreshadowed by appreciation; an appreciation to have had that person as a friend. The dream world is where she can still see him and enjoy what they have shared. Fantasies can be fulfilled in your dreams and that is the place the friendship can continue to exist. I am a fan of poems with abundant rhythmic stanzas but the emotional content embodied in this piece makes it potent. Comment by Craig Thomas — May 1, 2011 @ 2:40 pm
I find this poem incredibly rich. It continues to reward and teach me something new each time I return to it. And it often returns to me since I first read it.
I, too, love, as David (Hongjie) Pan writes, this poem’s “heart-warming” quality, as well as its ability to “haunt” in its “small details” and “spare lines,” as Professor Schulman notes. I absolutely agree with Travis Crowley about how “you can still feel [Valentine’s] pain of knowing that her dreams are the only place where she can still see [Shepherd].” As a poet, I’m especially interested in how the poem itself is a place, a dreamscape where these poets continue to meet. It’s both an “[ironically]…sad” and “heartwarming” place the reader also is invited to via the activity of reading. This invitation happens right away; the poem positions the reader with the letter writer and as the recipient, the “you.”
Just as the people in the poem overlap, the poem’s images rhyme, expand, and complicate one another. The needle resembles the pen which resembles the pelican beak and the bedspread resembles the letter which resembles the pelican breast, and so on. A theme of doubling and multiplicity certainly plays throughout the poem’s imagery, but is inherent in the idea of a dream, or the place where *imag*ination occurs. A dream is often thought of as a liminal space that questions the boundaries of reality. Many believe it’s a realm between or beyond life and death, where the living and dead can meet again or anew, as Travis pointed out.
Perhaps my favorite moment in the poem is that the penultimate section follows another section that seems most like a dream because it happens “at a hotel in another star.” After the heater and the thank you are given, we move to the next section with its surprising imperative to “break the glass.” Each time the phrase repeats it’s followed by white space. This silence on the page even looks like—is the image of—the fingerprint of a ghost. Importantly, its shape is made by the surrounding text. Body and not-body, text and white space rely on one another. The breath of the poet eternally asks: “can *you* breathe alright” (my emphasis)? Here, the imperative to “break the glass” begins to mean “break” what divides us.
Is the speaker telling herself, Shepherd, or me to break the glass? Certainly, it could be any one of these. But who breaks the glass is suddenly less important than the raw necessity for the action. The poem performs this breaking as it commands it alongside the breakdown of point of view at this moment in the poem. I love the image of glass in this poem; yes, it is a barrier, or “gate,” but it is also an “[opening],” a transparency that we can see into and beyond. This clarity of vision is also what a poem can allow. Comment by Ely Shipley — May 1, 2011 @ 3:39 pm
What I enjoy about the poem besides the title is how the tone draws you in. This is the 1st time I have encountered this poem and my favorite lines are:
If a person visits someone in a dream,
in some cultures the dreamer thanks them in the morning
for visiting their dream.
I too have written poetry using asterisks (*) to separate stanzas and I feel in this poem it serves to give readers time to prepare for the diction and tone of the next stanza. Comment by Jordan McFarlane-Beau — May 2, 2011 @ 8:18 am
I thought this was a very nice poem. I really liked the first two stanzas and relate them to each other. In the first stanza he says it is morning were he is not dreaming and cannot see his friend this is were he writes a letter with a needle and thread and pricks himself. This is liked to the pelican who is two out of her migratory path like the writer out of sleep yet she absently pecks at her breast this is liked to the poet absently writes a letter and pricking herself. Also in the fourth stanza I liked when she says I call it “dream” not dreaming it has more of an everlasting sense to it and then says shes not drawn in to that witch withdraws but him who never withdraws that gives the everlasting feeling. You can stop dreaming or be withdrawn from it, her dream is everlasting were he cannot withdraw were they can be forever. Comment by Patrick Pierre-Louis — May 18, 2011 @ 3:05 am
In this poem, the author is keeping the memory of Reginald Shepard alive. “May you breathe deeply and easily”, indicates that the author wants him to be at peace and relax, where there is no pain and suffering. She states “They have one heater. You are ill, please take it”, this illustrates that the author cares and loves Reginald Shepard. The author puts her needs last; it also shows how unselfish she is. In the end it states “Thank you for visiting my dream”, the author will always cherish the memory and by him visiting her dream it satisfied her thirst of missing him since thats the closest she can get to him. Comment by ashleywong — May 18, 2011 @ 9:15 am
The poem, “If a Person Visits Someone in a Dream, in Some Cultures the Dreamer Thanks them” by Jean Valentine, is very reminiscent and is almost very personal note to someone named Reginald. It visual contents are very hard to comprehend, unless you think about them deeply. The poem reads like a collection of random thoughts about this character named Reginald. It is interesting how the poem flows like a song, making the random thoughts feel connected. However, I think that the form of the poem is what makes me separate stanzas, and makes them seemed disconnected. It is actual reminisce of an Emily Dickerson style. Where the poem seems to jump into a new thought very abruptly, but overall the poem creates touching imagery, which sets a sober tone. That at the end seems like she is talking about a lost love one. This poem is a very interesting work as it portrays many different styles of poetry and even music inside it. Comment by j.mcaulay — May 21, 2011 @ 5:01 pm
I found this piece hard to comprehend at first, I was not able to connect the thread and needle, the dream, writing etc. but after reading it a few times connections formed in my head. Regardless of what meaning I drew from this piece, it had a warm, sincere and personal tone in a descriptive way. I thought the analogy of the pelican was unique. I like the way the poet mentions the pelican “whose child is gone/yet she absently picks at her breast” to explain her situation. In this case, the child who is gone is her dear friend Reginald who she dedicates this poem to and she writes as if he weren’t gone. The bedspread is her breast and she “pecks” her words, talking to Reginald. That is what I got from reading the text. I especially like the mention of the dream and the custom of thanking someone who visits in someone’s dream. It demonstrates her thankfulness and appreciation for her friendship with Reginald. She shows a deep concern for her friend’s well-being asking if he can breathe all right and wishing that he may “breathe deeply and easily” when she “pecks” her thoughts with a needle and thread onto the bedspread in the beginning of the poem. She also shows her concern for his well-being when she states in her dream that there was one heater and she gladly tells him to take it and thanks him for visiting her dream. This also shows her selflessness towards her friend along with her concern. I love the image of a “hotel in another star”. She describes her real feelings in a surreal dream world and portrays them to her reader. Her situation may be a reality for a lot of people who may have seen or dreamt of their deceased loved ones. I have never experienced such a dream before, however, with this poem I was able to capture the dream and its emotions in my mind. Comment by Rabia Ari — May 21, 2011 @ 5:11 pm