A Midsummer Afternoon’s Dream

Photo by Vincent H. Anastasi – Wolf Creek from My Backyard

When I began crafting this poem, I fully intended to mimic the style of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales: “When that August with his beastly heat…” However, I found the set meter and rhyme too restricting for the random wanderings of a father and his young sons up and down the stream that flows along our backyard. If form fits function, the regular rhythm of Chaucer fails to capture the frolicking freedom of our hours in Wolf Creek.

Nor do I mean to suggest with the title that what I experienced that Sunday afternoon in August was all but a dream, and that I had “but slumbered here / While these visions did appear” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1, Lines 416-417). Rather, in this case, the word “dream” should link with the word “idyll” in the poem. This pastoral scene that I capture in these few lines of poetry is the ideal afternoon for me (except it lacks a nap). As we have fought for Sabbath in our lives, working to make a hard stop on the week more intentional, it’s encounters like this that fuel my desire to keep fighting for rest.

Here on this first day of autumn, let me take you back to the midpoint of summer when the heat can be oppressive and the sound of the cicadas deafening. Although autumn is my favorite season of the year – think of the changing leaves, the apples, the pumpkin pie – the allurements of summer remind me to savor every moment I’m given and every season of life. That’s why, before heading off to my high school open house tonight, I went out back in my dress clothes to play soccer with my three youngest sons. “The kingfisher rushes downstream” – always. Don’t miss it!

A Midsummer Afternoon’s Dream

Vincent H. Anastasi - 2021

When summer solstice's half-life's spent
and the cicadian rhythm
of an idyll August afternoon
lures one to rest,
I settle, momentarily
on the lawn, halfway
between the house and Wolf Creek,
a matter of intrigue for bees and ants
whose delicate feet I cannot feel
exploring these hills and fields of flesh.

More insistent than summer's sultry voice,
my sons sing me into the stream
where, shod in water-shoes,
we plumb the shallow depths,
unsettling crayfish who brush
our ankles in protest
as they jettison past.
Hours wash away as we seek
to resurrect the past
from the creek bed's silty grave,
our open treasure chest.

We are Naomi Shihab Nye's trashpickers,
kneeling to the nearly intact China saucers,
rejoicing in the discovery
of each milk glass canning lid
and the blue glass telegraph insulator
that "finds its first kingdom"
in our unfinished kitchen.
We gather the broken pieces
of glass in a bucket
and toss the sunken branches
over the downed tree on the opposite bank
before hauling our prized soda bottles
up the stone steps to our backyard.

I pause to listen to water laughing
through our dams' imperfect rock walls
and watch the current carrying
away a few premature fallen leaves
as my Sunday settles into sunset
and a kingfisher rushes downstream.

4 thoughts on “A Midsummer Afternoon’s Dream

  1. I am so grateful you are a daddy willing to listen as your sons “sing you into the stream.” So many Sundays have settled into sunset and we have missed sucking the marrow from them!!! But this lazy wander through an afternoon is TRUE soul living.

    Liked by 1 person

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