The past is a vast attic -- the dusty toy, the old album, the forgotten fury, must mixing with desire.

Some experiences glow all the brighter for being gone. Youth is like that. Years take away the gawky pain, leave only the sweet taste of first times.

Other moments are so bitter that no number of years will dull the sorrow. "If you want to keep the beer REAL cold," moans a country and western song, "put it right next to my ex-wife's heart."

But we are more faithful than we know to the things we leave behind, to the spent emotions, the discounted dreams, to the fears we've fought and the lovers we've left. Here then are a few tales of former times, ornaments from the attic, shadows of the future.

Only on sleep-disturbed nights in the dawning hours do I think I must have led an earlier life.

Being partly Irish, I dream of being a stableboy to an Irish nobleman who would whack me with his riding crop for not doffing my cap when he appeared.

No, the strong feeling I have is that I did some writing and acting with an attempt to amuse someone, all of it with very bad results that awaken me before a stronger stream of throught might fully satisfy the search.

The closest I can come to what I might have been, which occurs the instant before waking in a cold sweat, is that I lived in a period around 452 and was court jester to Attila the Hun and wrote my own material.

Northern Italy comes to mind, when the Huns moved in to try to capture Rome. I was working on a bit of poetry when captured by Attila's troops and spared when I tossed off a couple of one-liner about the Visigoths and Astrogoths and brought before Attila.

My memory is that he didn't laugh much at my attempt at humor, but he liked soft-shoe dancing, something that came natural to me.

History shows that Attila never reached Rome to claim the emperor's sister, Honoria, and was persuaded to withdraw during a camp visit by Pope Leo I.

I dream of Attila retreating from Italy and my escape wearing monk's robes and a self-cut tonsure, which I was born with the second time around and remains with me today.