Friday, April 11, 2014


About five o'clock on the morning of January 18th, 2002, I was startled awake from such a vivid dream that I knew I needed to write something down immediately before it evanesced.  I awoke so suddenly that I inadvertently woke Ivaan. I muttered "pencil".  He actually kept a pencil and paper beside the bed because he dreaded forgetting his dreams, so he handed them to me.

Even after writing down what  I needed to, I felt far too unsettled to fall asleep again.  I felt I'd had a presentiment of his death.

Ivaan had suffered his first stroke in 2000, and two heart attacks in the early 1990s, so I was hyper-vigilant about his wellbeing. The dream from which I'd awoken that night offered no particular clues, but I still remember it with astonishing clarity.  I dreamed we were at the Davenport Road home of our friends Danny and Madeleine, and there were quite a number of other guests there as well.  In my dream, there was a glass transom above the archway between their living room and dining room, and beside the archway was a ladder.  I climbed the ladder and wrote on the glass with my finger:

I turn and study faces in the places you have been
To see if any traces of you yet remain therein.
You left on me your fingerprint, imprimatur and sign.
I wonder if you touched their life as much as you touched mine.

This is when I was startled awake, and knew I had to write it down. I also noted the date and time, and the title You-Logy came to me, although I hadn't written a title on the transom in my dream.

When we eventually woke up, I told Ivaan about the dream and read him what I had written.  We were both so unnerved that he asked me to rewrite it in a special book I kept for important notes.

Rereading it now, I still feel there was something prophetic about it. Ivaan's second stroke occurred later that year, in the early hours of the morning. Again, I was startled awake, in that same room, in that same bed, by the realization that Ivaan was in distress, and things were never the same again.


Through decembers blustery cold
and sleet and dead of night
when blasts and torrents scratch
and bite and tear
The vision of a viking in navy suede
and black riders boots
is bearded and smokes hard
upon his pipe
Perchance to ward off the evil gusts.

By the light and warm
and hum of an electric fire
The mighty Norseman sheds his animal skins
and puffs away in wrinkled red and blue
A placid smile upon his Russian countenance

Who has seen the suns
possessive rays upon the  bearded one?
Their friendly fingers wrestling at his hair
What of the summers Russian?
Does he shed his denim
and sleep in a black t-shirt in the sun
Oblivious to the outstretched arms of Helios
Till it, too, creeps away unseen?

And does he don his winters leather
and draw in his eyebrows
To meet the onslaught
of decembers blustery cold -
A viking in his prime?

- I wrote this about Ivaan when I was 17.  I only wrote one copy, in fountain pen on a sheet of airmail paper, and then I forgot all about it. 
Forty years later, a couple of years after his death,  I was leafing through one of his journals, and a thin white sheet of folded airmail paper fell out. I've always been surprised, reading his early journals, to find references to myself and my family.  Incidents that I'd long forgotten are mentioned, including a reference to Ivaan's first meeting with my father, in 1969. I suppose I must have given Ivaan my only copy of this poem, and I am impressed and touched that he kept it safe for the rest of his life.