[38] A Dream of Morden Tower, Michael Salcman

There are few places more romantic than a graveyard
where one can feel the warm cloak of ghosts,
like the emanations of Yeats congealing at Ballylee,
that square fifteenth century Thoor I’ve never seen,
when he was at home spying on the swans at Coole.
Or stepping inside the round Martello tower
at Sandycove would be just as good,
where Joyce spent a week in 1904, years before
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan voyaged down its steps
with a bowl of lather in which mirror and razor lay crossed,
like those island nations on either side of the Irish Sea,
that blue-green line on the map of violence and poetry.

My most recent miss was the drum-shaped Morden Tower
in Newcastle on Tyne, one of five survivors standing
from the thirteenth century in the old medieval wall.
Panic and distress arrived in me learning of this too late
a moment before I gave a reading at the university,
some sophists of certainty sitting in front,
none with the courtesy to mention the old literary pipe
or issue me a pass to leave off the dinner and tour
the ancient archeology of the site
rescued at last by battalions of poets in 1964,
the town having wasted much of its history on priests
or guilds of glaziers, plumbers, and goldsmiths.

These mythic towers house the epidemiology of poetry
in which I remain immiserated and a touch insane,
supposing never to walk in Newcastle again,
never to share the residual breath of its elder voices
taking their own deep dive in a deep green sea,
or feel my body tingle at a Whitmanian frequency.
If only I had seen the Morden Tower bit by lightning,
sparking the sky like a volcano in Mordor,
it might have lit something universal in me
exploding the bias of personal history, clearing away
the fumes of Brooklyn, Boston and Baltimore.

And yet childhood nights held a similar waking dream,
my body afloat on the ceiling, freed of shackles and bed,
free of the polio leg that had kept me grounded by day,
when the spirit of poetry first descended on me
and paralysis left.

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