Richard W Halperin – Winter Dreams

Halperin LE P&W February 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing February 2024.

Winter Dreams, poems by Richard W. Halperin.

The poems in ‘Winter Dreams’ are among the first never to be seen by Dennis Grieg, founding publisher of Lapwing, who passed away on Christmas Day 2023 after a long illness. Mr. Halperin writes, ‘He is everywhere in my poetry and in my life. How can he not be?

January 2nd

I look at the slightly open door
of my sitting room, January 2nd.
A rainy day. I live in the letters of friends.
But – shock – I find I am not prepared
to reread letters from friends who have died.

My mother-in-law Rose. I reread one of hers.
Beautifully typed. She had been
a typing teacher. After her signature,
she drew a rose, a pink one as it happens.

I must not, I tell myself, be surprised
by any death. Of anyone, of any age.
What if heaven is best described
not by words like ‘eternity’ or ‘bliss’
but by the word ‘surprise’?

Rose’s letter is a message from the living
to the living. There is no veil.
The rain beats against my windowpane,
thousands and thousands of drops
running down the glass. I am glad to
see them. The privilege of reality.

The Solitary Man

Sei Shōnagon writes in her pillow book
that when she begins to settle into
her cell in a temple which she has travelled to
with friends for several days of prayer

she notices that the man in the cell next to
hers is lying prostrate on the ground, praying
inaudibly. She expects him to rise soon,
but he continues thus for hours. She calls him

the solitary man. ‘I was very moved,’
she writes. When he does get up, he rests,
then says his devotions, but so quietly
that she cannot make out what the words are.

Does she relate to him? She doesn’t say.
Do I? This poem is the answer.

Night Sky

A friend wrote that we are each
a combination of time and eternity.
He did not know that another friend
had just taken his flight – that that friend
was now only eternity, I left on the runway
holding a scrap of him in my hand.

Before there was incandescent urban
street lighting, one could see the entire
night sky. Incandescent street lighting
is neither time nor eternity. It is fake.
The stars move very slowly or very fast,
one cannot tell because for that
one needs to see a backdrop.

I hold a scrap of my friend in my hand.
That is not fake. That is beautiful.

The Consolation of Letters

Letters of friends. These I do not keep.
They are in memory which is entirely
present if you touch it.

Also, letters of people I never knew,
who know what it is to be alone with What:
Charlotte Brontë, T.E. Lawrence, others.

Also the Bible – a letter for the middle of
the night. The incomprehensible left
incomprehensible. ‘And also much cattle.’

© Richard W. Halperin

Richard W. Halperin holds U.S.-Irish dual nationality and lives in Paris. Since 2010, he has seen four poetry collections published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher and sixteen shorter collections by Lapwing/Belfast. A Selected & New Poems, Introduction by Joseph Woods, will be launched by Salmon in Spring 2024. In May 2024, Mr Halperin will read from his work as part of the Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend, Achill Island.

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