"The First Dream"
by Billy Collins
The Wind is ghosting around the house tonight
and as I lean against the door of sleep
I begin to think about the first person to dream,
how quiet he must have seemed the next morning
as the others stood around the fire
draped in the skins of animals
talking to each other only in vowels,
for this was long before the invention of consonants.
For almost an entire decade, my favorite poem has been Collins' "The First Dream." It replaces W.S. Merwin's "For the Anniversary of My Death." Every time I read Collins' poem, I stop breathing. Just like the two dreamers in this poem, I am haunted by Collins' ability to portray the timeless human sense of wonder, especially for the seemingly very simple things we cannot understand; haunted by Collins' portrayal of the tension which exits between two basic human experiences---the need for solitude and the need for love.