On Meeting Robert Hayden in a Dream

here among them  the dead  the others  the aliens
I see you without    coke bottle glasses   a wavy comb over 
your nose buried inside a notebook  over-

flowing with strange sightings   men and women
without a homeland   a library to shelve histories
dreams   the names of rare flowers  fruits  baby names

exiled from their villages   learning to say hello
with accents thick   with nostalgia   for their purple planets
here UFO sightings aren’t so spectacular

border crossing is quintessentially american  universal
crowds gather in squalid ghettoes where every country is a city
every city is a verse  & every verse echoes “Those Winter

where a New World opens up where all the martians are
at the writing table with their fountain pens & swollen digits &
     you whispering

what took so long?


Copyright © 2015 by Abdul Ali. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘On Meeting Robert Hayden in a Dream’ is an homage to Robert Hayden, a giant of American and African American letters. When I first read his collection American Journal, I was immediately struck by his interest in ‘the other.’ I do not need to tell you how relevant his work is today. Are we not ‘aliens’ to each other? Are we not holding signs claiming that our lives matter? I believe now more than ever, Hayden’s work needs to be discussed as a pillar of American literature in the way that we talk about Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.”
Abdul Ali