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Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact [email protected].

First Dream

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 14, 2018.
About this Poem 

“The poem is based on a dream—one of the first dreams I can recall—from my childhood. The physical appearance of the dreamt-of wolves, still sharp after sixty years, was likely drawn from a Time-Life book illustration I had seen prior to dreaming, though I’ve not attempted to verify this. The key word in the poem is probably pass—it recurs and references spiritual, physical, and racial issues. Yet the original dream vision, I hope, persists. The summit of Negro Mountain is the highest point in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
—C. S. Giscombe

First Dream

(from Negro Mountain)

Wolves came up the driveway and through the side yard of the old house—this 

was in kindergarten time—and I stood still though I was frightened 

to be in their midst and they took note of me but did 

not bite or threaten me. The light was light I had known—by then—

having seen it in the hour before a thunderstorm: dull, bitter light, and everywhere though

without apparent source. The wolves had ragged gray pelts—bad fur, tufts

of it—and their hindquarters were skinny in comparison to their very big shoulders.

They’d come in apparently from the street, Liscum Drive, and onto the property (which 

was nearly an acre and had once been a farmstead), and they parted around where 

I was standing. It was almost literally a wave of them, those wolves, as 

though they’d come up the hill from West Third Street or somehow got through 

the chain-link fence of the V.A. cemetery that traced the hill 

on Liscum Drive.  

	       A white friend wrote to me, the human figure passes through the animal 

pack unharmed. And she said that she saw the dream as being not about 

the wolves as much as passing through adversity, this exchange 

decades after the dream itself, which had been a thing of moment—visual, 

tinctured with obvious anxiety—and current in my memory for that time before the year she 

and I met.

	   Make no mistake, dear and articulate friends, I knew it    

was an unstable moment. My thumbs  

were different, I’d seen, from one 

another. Beyond the driveway had been pear and walnut trees.  

One passes through a wood, or a track does.  

A dull feeling overtakes you in the field.  

There had been a gate at the driveway but only

the posts remained, grown through by the hedges that stopped on either side 

of the entrance from the street.  What do hills 

summarize? Origin stories? Right

and left separated long before this. Bait me, love

—I can pass until I speak.  

Copyright © 2018 by C. S. Giscombe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by C. S. Giscombe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.