Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | November 2, 2011

“Waken to Nightmare,” a Poem from “Finding the Way Home.”


My mind should be screaming at impossible height;
yet, I stand calmly balanced
like a bird on a wire
so finely stretched
it disappears.

The thin edge appears without support,
origin and goal so distant
they blur.

In the depths below,
a coliseum curves on two sides,
holding a bare oval of stained sand
like pincers grasping a kill.

Bleachers seethe with people I know,
or almost know,
and strangers
or ignoring.

Poised above them like a peregrine,
my eyes sweep the arena;
their faces, clear
their voices, tiny screams
Clenched fists ram the air,
thumbs downward.
The victim is unclear.

Watchers, on one side, sit all in black;
quiet, expectant-
necks stretched, shoulders humped,
perched on the rim of patience.

Across the bare killing field,
screeching, jeering crowds,
in garish colors stolen from a madman’s acid dreams
jostle, shove and spit
small hard screams
flying up like bullets of hate.

flock to both sides,
working the crowds
like pickpockets under the guillotine.

atop the wind,
my arms spread like wings of a hawk
searching for prey
-still unseen . . .
like a warrior bird,
hovering at a poise
to tuck pinions and drop,
reaching to rip through the long air slide,
crosscurrents whirring in talons,
screaming into the jaws of gravity,
down to tear,
earth rushing up . . .

-if this is not a dream. . .
or, if a dream, is it really death
on that empty, alien ground
if this is not a dream
of flying?

My toes, in clumsy, cleated boots,
try to curve; to hook on the thin, swaying steel
like claws of a hooded falcon,
blindly clutching the master’s mailed fist.
Frantic fingers spread, flapping
grasping for the broken-glass edge of balance—

and . . .
someone touches my shoulder,
shakes, yells in a whisper,
“Wake up!”
I have to stand watch.


you’ve earned your own nightmares.

Staring at blackness from a blacker hole,
listening to the night jungle;
trailing threads of dream tell the rest . . .
the real birds of war
are not raptors.


  1. I won’t litter this riveting a and moving poem with commentary except to say, thank you to all who have and will sacrifice for a just cause. Dreams such as this do not come by chance.

    Thank You!

    • I appreciate your comments. Your words, “Dreams such as this do not come by chance,” are quite telling. Thank you.

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