The Dream of February

By John Haines 1924–2011 John Haines
In the moonlight,
in the heavy snow,
I was hunting along
the sunken road
and heard behind me
the quiet step
and smothered whimper
of something following . . .

Ah, tree of panic
I climbed
to escape the night,
as the furry body glided
beneath, lynx with   
steady gaze, and began
the slow ascent.

And dark blue foxes
climbed beside me with
famished eyes that   
glowed in the shadows;

I stabbed with
a sharpened stick until
one lay across
the path with entrails
spilled, and
the others melted away.

The dead fox
moved again, his jaws
released the
sound of speech.

Slowly I toiled
up the rotting stairs
to the cemetery
where my mother lay buried,

to find the open grave
with the coffin
tilted beside it,
and something spilled
from the bottom—

a whiteness that flowed
on the ground
and froze into mist that
enveloped the world.

“The Dream of February.” Copyright © 1993 by John Haines. Reprinted from The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Source: The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1993)

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Poet John Haines 1924–2011

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Living, Death, Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 John  Haines


Poet and essayist John Haines was born in 1924 and studied art and painting at the National Art School, the American University, and the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Art. In 1947, Haines bought a 160-acre homestead claim 80 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, intending to pursue painting. According to Haines, when his paints froze, he turned to writing. His collections of poetry include Winter News (1966); The Stone Harp (1971); . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Nature, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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