Mark Twain’s Dream

A new poem by Carol Muske-Dukes

He saw his own death riding the tail
of the great comet. Then bet on how
he’d end the way he came in: on

the back of a fireball. But when
he dreamed his brother in that coffin
resting on two chairs, with white

roses on his chest & one red in the
middle—he woke shouting & would
not rest until he saw Henry safe. So

the life of a young steamboat pilot
was like a former life, remembering
how to steer the sky, that reflection

on the water—“like the space where
a cloud had been,” he wrote. But the
cloud sailed, the day dawned again,

Henry’s boat blew sky-high. When
Sam came to find him, Henry lay
in a coffin resting on two chairs.

Sam looked for the roses in vain.
At last a nurse came, carrying his
dream bouquet. There, his white clouds,

his petalled sky, with one centered
reflection: blood-red, the fireball, the
rose, the heart, the message sent from

nowhere or everywhere Mark Twain
could imagine his own life might be
in the space where a cloud had been.

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