from Un Libro Pequeño de Preguntas

After, loosely, Neruda

Maureen N. McLane

for Julia Targ


What were my dreams
before I met you?

What are your dreams?
Who is your mother?  Your father?

What song from the Isle of Skye
will fill your ears years hence?

How did the marimba sound
in your hands?  Who is your shield?

Do you remember the unicorn?
Will the eight buddhas station themselves

in the tongues of fire
that guard our hearts?

How many have died
since I've known you?

How many are waiting to walk
soot-covered into the clearing?


When will the plum tree blossom?
For how long will the forsythia hold

its cold yellow?  Will the bright spring come
to our river and how will it show itself

by the Euphrates?  Will the bombers
abandon their plans and  plant trees?

When will the foreign soldiers venture
beyond their concrete into the heart

of the ancient cities and ruined marshes?
Do the charred guards still litter the desert?

Who is recording the destruction?
Who is singing the psalm by the waters of Babylon?


What is your name?  And mine?
And whose pseudonymous skin

shall we walk in tomorrow?
Does love teach us anything?

Must it?  How will we remember
one another?  Will we?

Will we find what we want
in this life?  And then?

Maureen N. McLane is the author of World Enough: poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) and Same Life: poems (FSG, 2008), and two books on British romantic poetry and culture, Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry (2008) and Romanticism and the Human Sciences (2000), both from Cambridge University Press. An Associate Professor of English at NYU, she has published essays on poetry, fiction, teaching, and sexuality in The New York Times, Boston Review, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and many other venues. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle's Nona Balakian Award for Excellence in Book Reviewing, she is currently a contributing editor at Boston Review. Her book, My Poets, is forthcoming from FSG in 2012.