Dream Of A Lost Friend
by Michael Woods
The poet has a dream about a time before the death of a friend from AIDS.
This is a poem about loss and the treachery of time. The fact that the friend can only be contacted in a dream emphasises that he is dead. The use of the euphemistic 'lost' in place of the word dead is not simply to evade reality but reminds us that loss is very much at the centre of our experience when a loved friend dies.
The device Duffy uses is similar to that in Wilfred Owen's 'Strange Meeting' but the subject of the poem is encountered in a state that has not yet experienced death. Owen imagines meeting an enemy soldier after he has died. It is true to say that the friend in Duffy's poem is dead but she is imagining a time before he was.
The presentation of the relationship is couched in terms of the way a disease seems to have foreknowledge; it is aware of the death it will mete out and, oddly, the poet is aware that she and the friend are not yet aware. This is a complex juggling with time and it presages Duffy's preoccupation with temporality in Mean Time. Like those in the cemetery in Pére Lachaise, the friend is physically 'Forever dead.'