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A U G U S T   1 9 9 9

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by John Haines

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I am the dreamer who remains
when all the dreams are gone,
scattered by the millennial winds
and sacked by the roadside.

The solar clock hand stopped:
confusion and fury on the street
-- so much idle paper
shredded and tossed aside.

The small, dim shops of the tourist
trade are shuttered and locked ...
Nightfall, and the buyer turns away.

One more stolen fortune spent:
another century gone
with its fits and desolations --
I leave my house to the creditor wind.

Tell me if you know my name,
whose face I wear, whose stored-up
anger fades to a tentative smile.

I am the one who touches fire,
who rakes the leaves to watch them burn,
and who says once more to himself
on this calm evening of earth:

Awake! The stars are out,
mist is on the water,
and tomorrow the sun will return.

John Haines is a poet, an essayist, and a teacher. His most recent book is At the End of This Summer: Poems 1948-54 (1997). His memoir, The Stars, the Snow, the Fire (1989), will be reissued in paperback next spring.

Copyright © 1999 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; August 1999; Poem for the End of the Century; Volume 284, No. 2; page 70.

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