Like the dreamers themselves,
its edges and fissures are so worn by now
the same dream- stone slips through
their loosely woven interludes of sleep
before the very old can grasp it in their palms,
read the traces of its text, the nearly eroded fine print:

   The War's Long Over
   All the Shops have Closed for the Season
   There's no Breaking Free from Each Day's Circular Cage
Still their fingers stubbornly cling
to what's left of their slick
and almost threadbare lifeline,
the very old refusing to die
of a boredom
so boundless and constant
it would long ago have tempted
their own younger selves to let go.

Barbara Lefcowitz


"In modern times many stones lack the powers formerly attributed to them."

--Bishop Ruy Lopez, 16th century chess master

For a full year she fed herself only the finest of emeralds.
Two beneath each eyelid, to revive
her once perfect vision, a deep green neckstone
to ward off fever.

Another, cold & sweet, under her tongue
to stimulate prophetic powers,
pulverized emerald to divert the nightmares.
A handful, of course, embedded inside
her body's most hidden folds
to honor the sacred link between emerald and Venus.

Yet a green fever burned through her skin & she woke
more myopic than ever,
a haze the shade of unripe fruit
obscuring rims & borders.  Monsters from
nightmares already dreamt entered with ease
& every prediction she made turned out false.

Were the stones at fault
or she?

Sapphire induced but a shift
from green haze to blue.
Topaz turned her yellow
& when she swallowed
a cluster of night-shining pearls
they rushed to her head as if stars;
bands of rubies stormed her brow's dome
until she was buried by treasure, scant
consolation for having been born           
too late for stones, too early
for whatever collusion
of chemistry & faith will become
the next text of prophetic magic.

Barbara Lefcowitz
BARBARA F. LEFCOWITZ has published eight full-length collections of poetry, a novel, and inidividual poems, stories, and essays in over 450 journals, and has also won writing fellowships and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Maryland Arts Council.