Friday, June 29, 2007

I was in a very cluttered, labyrinthine house, lost. One side of the house's facade was missing, exposing it to the outside. The house was some kind of group home for adults with disabilities, and I was there as a staff member, there to care for them, though in each room I entered I felt deranged and couldn't tell the difference between the disabled and the other staff members there as workers.

While walking into some room where no people were I suddenly shit my pants in a single, swift burst. The shit ran through my pants and made an instant trail, which seemed to encompass the entire floor-space of the room. As I was trying to simultaneously clean the floor and remove my pants — panicked and embarrassed — Bethany Wright came into the room. When she saw me she burst into tears — in as quick and short a burst as my shit. She then disappeared as I continued to try frantically to clean my mess, and came back a few minutes later, smiling beneficently, offering a clean issue of clothing.

I then put on the clothing, and donned over it a black garbage bag, and continued through the house.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Late afternoon languor, tedium, residua. The Phoenicia Volunteer Fire Department arrives in three giant pickup trucks, none of which are official trucks, but each of which has impromptu scaled-down police lights on its roof. The assembled concerned citizens demand to search the house for fire hazards. My step-mother, three younger sisters and brother are all present. The Phoenicians are horrified that so many seemingly sophisticated strangers are living in a small house—they don't realize that the family is only on vacation. The volunteers meticulously go through my personal belongings. When I think no one is looking, I try to hide incriminating items. One concerned citizen picks up a personal check for a sizeable sum, reads it, shows it to her husband, and says "see, it happened to him too." I assume that she is referring to a certain questionable real estate agent. "I can prove it, I say," trying to ingratiate myself to my fellow citizens, whom I assume have been similarly wronged by the same real estate agent, herself a foreigner from Woodstock. The husband and wife are unimpressed by my attempt at conversation and do not reply. They continue to search my belongings. It is only at this point that it occurs to me that these citizens need a warrant.

The citizens are quiet, nosy, almost bestial—like the invaders in Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, but not as rowdy. I think maybe I am in a film: the home under seige is probably the central motif of horror andwestern films from The Searchers to Scream. Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs is merely the most extreme embodiment. I should be more welcoming, less patriarchal, less territorial. The home invaders eye my books with particular suspicion.

The inspection seems to be going badly. One man says he will have to cite me for my barbecue being too close to the house. Another man is rummaging through the electrical panel, with a mixed look of disapproval and confusion, as if he hated this technology he didn't understand, but knew that he should understand.

My family seems annoyed with me for taking all this so seriously. They seem unconcerned about the home invasion. At one point my sister reproaches me for being so disorganized. What did I expect? Naturally visitors should be appalled by my lifestyle.

The increasing incompetence of the inspectors is becoming apparent. One of them drives a massive Hemi V-10 truck into a smaller pickup accidentally. The smaller truck rolls over against the side of the house, and is left there lying on its side. No one seems much concerned. The occasional lethargic reproachful glance is cast my way: otherwise the Phoenicians carry on about their tasks. It seems as though they have decided to move in.

At this point, I decide to make my last stand and mention the issue of the warrant. Some of the locals are now sitting down nonchalantly. The house has grown in size. As I prepare to confront the citizens, I realize I am in the Phoenicia Diner. This is no longer my property. I awake.

[Yesterday before bed I was reading Adorno's Dream Notes and earlier in the day had written the following lines from Dickinson in my notebook;

I am alive- because
I do not own a house. (605)

Did Nietzsche have a mortgage in Sils-Maria?

Adorno [while dreaming]: "She asked me why I made fun of myself in my
dreams and, without thinking, I answered: to fend off feelings of
paranoia" (Dream Notes 54).]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In a darkened classroom with bare concrete walls and floors, crowded with mostly middle-aged overweight people.

A trailer for a movie, made by someone I didn't like (and who was also gregariously present in the room), was being projected against the wall. The trailer was an arial shot of a long row of truck trailers forming a circle, with the voicover, "Come see my new movie, 'Allen Ginsberg and Me Waiting for the Long Bus.'"

Everyone was laughing hard, but I was angry. I stood up and shouted, sarcastically, "Don't you think this is just a little politically heavy handed?!" As I sat down I made eye contact with Lyn Hejinian, who I knew was there (though I had been trying to avoid her so to avoid the possibility of embarrassing myself), and who gave a very emphatic "Yes!"

But no one else had heard Heijinian, or me. They were all still roaring, and most had left their seats and were walking around the room, which had become something of a party.

Monday, June 25, 2007

zebras on the side of the road
as big as two-story houses
and huge hyenas
and even a lion or two
but my car
that I'd parked
by the road—

Friday, June 22, 2007

Well, I forgot to put flowers under my pillow. I dreamt that I was in a large classroom full of people sitting "Indian-style on the rug" in a circle. There were two large white birds with long, gramophone-shaped tails. The tails had an intricate Fibonacci pattern of white and pale orange feathers with an occasional pink feather. Pierre Joris, who in the dream was a renowned physicist, disagreed with me that the tail feathers were similar in purpose to those of a peacock. I told him he was daft, which in reality I would never say to Pierre because he is wonderful (well, if I think he is wonderful maybe he is a bit daft). A girl I knew in high school then tried to prove that Pierre was right, but all of her arguments were circular. I yelled at her, she started to cry, and one of the other students called me Beezlebub. That part was not much different from high school.

Then I dreamt that Reb Livingston and I started a boxcar cafe. We were hell-bent on getting a liquor license.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I dreamt that we were at a party. I was squatting in the living room at the party handling foreign currency. Two W.A.S.P. men in dark grey suits -- we were partygoers new to each other -- told us to keep the money. We removed the bills from a black leather album. Later, one of the W.A.S.P.s stopped me in the hallway. He seemed intent on going to one of the bedrooms, but I had no interest, and my eyes dropped. He said, "You were raped," and I said, "sorry." Then the other W.A.S.P. man appeared in the hall. The two of them lifted me up and carried me into a bedroom while I fought them. One of the men withdrew a needle from a pack and inserted it into my leg at the ankle. I was screaming but my screams were muffled by their hands. I was calling to all coasts, "Michael!" in a low growl. I had never once had a needle in me besides at a doctor's office. What is going to happen to me? Is it a virus? A drug? Then I woke up, glad to be safe but alarmed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I had a long, winding dream. I was having a large party. Everyone I knew, had ever known, was ostensibly there. Two girls I never really got along with in high school were lovingly checking the library, preparing the hors d'oeuvres. Friends from elementary school (who are all still friends with each other, though not with me) sat at a long table with lace napkins. There were not enough chairs for everyone in the auditorium or the dining room, so many of the poets had escaped to smoke in a side-room with large open windows.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I dreamt the poet Tom Meyer sent me an e-mail asking me what I thought of this passage from a recent book by the famous British Blanchot scholar Melvyn More (a woman who wrote in French and was translated into English by someone else): "It is imperative that we interpret everything that happens in life from a Blanchotean perspective. [Or: It is imperative that we see everything in life the way Blanchot would see it.] Everything is a door."
After studying the books for sale at my employer's booth for a bit, a woman said to me, "Why don't you have any good books?"

To which I, reasonably, replied, "We do--all of these books are good." For emphasis, I accompanied my confident statement with a sweeping gesture that encompassed the dozens of books on offer in front of me; we had, after all, only brought good books.

"No," said the woman, emphatically. "I mean good books--ones that are written by Sports Illustrated!"

To which I had no response.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I was dreaming I was lying on a beach somewhere and there was no one around. I could see Jacob riding around on some kind of jet ski out in a harbor, at least in the dream I seemed certain it was him. The only other thing I remember was a large iguana on the trunk of a tree.
It was the progress of an enchantment. In a crowded way near the dance floor, I meet and embrace an old friend, who congratulates me on the mechanical device I've just trialed. Despite the complexity of the engineering, it's really just a kind of balloon that, launched into the air, includes a trapdoor that opens so that lollies fall in a scramble for the kids below ... we move on from there towards other amazements and next I find myself in the loft of an old church, looking past an upright, golden slab of sandstone into a wide bare room beneath the peaked roof. My sons are with me and we are aware that the spell we've cast has been successful, the black and spiky demons that haunted this belfry have gone and in their place there is ... a pure white heifer, Io or Europa, her delicate hooves tapping across the wooden floorboards. Time to go, I say, we will climb through the window and down the ladder leaning outside against the wall, rejoin the rest of our party. The rungs of the thin metal ladder are far apart and my youngest boy is nervous about his ability to reach from one to the next but there's no time to waste, the heifer has been replaced by an enormous, dew-lapped, hump-shouldered white bull, Zeus no doubt, not malign but threatening in his magnificence and unconcern ... we tumble safely down the ladder. Now it is time for us to take our seats on the buses for the journey home but first I have to choose a book to read along the way. There are so many books here! In heaps outside along the ground, stacked on shelves inside. And they are so dull ... there is not one I want to read. Everyone else is already on one or other of the two buses, they'll leave without me if I'm not careful but I can't get on until I decide what book to read, and I can't ... decide. Anyway, I think, I can always catch the train. Finally I see, open on the floor, in landscape format, an illustrated volume of Kafka's Diaries. The pictures are extraordinary, they show fantastical figures, angels, nymphs, golems, pixies, fairies, elves, trolls, disporting in the skies above the roofs of Prague. Beautiful in their pale, airy blues and greens. This is the book for me but it belongs to someone else, an artist, she has been using it to make the figurines I can see on the coloured cloth spread out on the floor in front of the book shelf. I look closely at these tiny mannequins, they are only an inch or so tall, incredibly detailed, a commedia d'ell arte of grotesques out of Hieronymos Bosch. No way I can take this woman's book, it has to stay here with her clay gallery, I'll travel on alone and unaccompanied by any reading matter. Outside, the church has disappeared, the buses have gone, I'm alone and not in the least perturbed, I'll catch the train from Ashfield station back to Summer Hill ... just then I see my sister, not as she was, but the age she would be now if she had lived. Except everything about her is wrong: a bad wig of the wrong colour, dusty gold instead of black, smeared make-up put on all slapdash, frumpy clothes, an ugly voice. And unhappy in a lifelong kind of way. Yet it's clearly her, I can tell from the set of her shoulders, just the way our mother held herself. I square my own, I take her by the arm. There's nothing else to do. We will go back home together.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The dream starts and ends at AS's new apartment, with rooms on the ground floor and a guest room up some narrow, winding stairs. He's there with his wife and young daughter (so he's really JC). I'm excited that he's actually Kingston, close by. His wife and child sleep; I make tea for myself and another old friend (L?) who will be staying with me in the guest room. There's a mess of cups and old teabags and spoons on the narrow counter near the sink. I rinse out a small pot and use it to brew tea; I'm going to take a cup up to L. in the guest room. AS's wife gets out of bed and explains why I shouldn't make tea in that pot, but her language is garbled (as I struggle to listen, her words reel out like paint on canvas, with the "dark" parts of words coming out too thick, hence slurred), not quite English, and she's still half-asleep, so I don't pay attention but just smile and nod politely. In the middle of the dream, I leave that apt. on some mission. I have 2 backpacks to carry, one quite large, and as this is cumbersome, AS lends me an even larger backpack. I stuff my backpacks inside, noticing that there's a down coat (black and red, very large) and another smaller backpack, both belonging to AS, already inside, but I'm in such a rush that I don't bother to take them out. I go to a store (hardware store?), a depressing place caught in a time warp with hardly any merchandise and a depressed, listless proprietor. That part of the dream remains obscured. When I walk out, I immediately get lost. I'm in a run-down industrial area, near a river, no people, no traffic. One exotic old car finally passes me and I start running after it, calling for it to wait. The car stalls. I open the passenger door and the frame of the dream zooms in on the other door, where the driver is fiddling with an intricate copper gear and old-fashioned coil spring through a tiny hinged door in the door, using tiny screwdrivers, but he is too excited and frantic to answer my simple request for directions: P.... Street. Some wonderful name that escaped upon awakening--Peacock Street? Peplum Street? I start walking and end up emerging from a steep wooded hill in Hurley, on the street where I grew up. It makes no sense, and I'm horrified to be there. And there is my mother, pulling out of our driveway (in my father's old Rambler, a car she never drove). I don't have time to hide or run, but in any case, she stops and very pleasantly offers me a ride. I'm crowded in the back seat with my sister. I don't think she takes me all the way to my destination because I'm back near the old store again. Why didn't I pay attention when AS drove me here, I think, but we were too excited, madly talking to each other. I open the pack, hoping that there's something in there with AS's new address--and see that one of my backpacks and AS's pack and his coat are gone. Stolen. Somehow I get back to the apt. on P... Street. AS's daughter wakes up; she's been sleeping in a cardboard box under lots of blankets and quilts and she jumps up wearing a snowsuit. I tease her about this (she is JC's daughter and a younger version of A.). "Yes, I slept in all my clothes so I can go right to school," she says, laughing. It's not true, and her mother is trying to hurry her into changing into appropriate school clothes. This first floor of the apt. has been painted blue, walls and ceiling, a lovely, deep blue. The walls have also been treated with textured cement, so there's a grotto effect going on. One wall also has photos of the daughter embedded in the cement. I notice all these details, perhaps because I'm procrastinating about telling AS about the robbery; I have that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach--guilt, I guess, about having allowed such a stupid thing to happen. And he looks stricken when I tell him--his backpack had a bunch of his writing in it. Neither of us mention the down coat, but it's clear that he was delighted to find it in his mother's attic since he hadn't owned a coat in Mexico City and it is going to be a very cold winter and he really can't afford another. I almost say, "If I had the money, I'd buy you a new coat tomorrow," but bite my tongue. More people are in the room then, asking where the robbery might have occurred. I did put the pack down while I was in the hardware store, though I didn't notice anyone else there. Some people think there's a chance I could find the stolen packs again; all I have to do is hang out at the mall and watch people going through check-out. This makes no sense to me. Suddenly, Ted comes into the room, the light behind him making his hair look blonde. He takes my hand, pulls me to my feet, and envelops me in a hug. "Don't worry...everything's going to be alright," he assures me, very serious, and then leaves.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

It is very hot at the moment in Chennai, and I confess to a long siesta some afternoons. On one such, I was reading Philip Nikolayev's new collection Letters From Aldenderry (which, as I think anyone who has actually read it would agree, is a brilliant, truly astounding collection, one of the very best in recent years) and I eventually drifted into a warm sleep with the book nearby.

It was one of those soft-skied dreams, with the scent of rain approaching. I remember that at one point there were old friends, and someone with a pipe. There were several lines of poetry, but I sort of seemed to know already that, on contact with waking life, these were just going to dissemble into unimpressive doggerel. They brought pleasure nevertheless. What slowly came to dominate the dream, however, and what is now most of what I can remember, was a sound emerging from the background, a sound like that of dozens of birds (different species, different conversations) going at the same time, the way you sometimes hear it going into a park at twilight. Instinctively, on a deep physical level, I associated this sound with Philip's book, and this brought me pleasure. But there was something menacing about the sound as well—listened to with a feel for individual birds, it was an intricate network of songs and patterns, but listened to as one collective sound, it slowly moved towards insidious nightmare. There was something about death, about Philip's exhuberant book having a dark side, which somehow helped me cope and feel like something was being demonstrated to me by the dream, like I ought to sit down and figure it out. But the sound, which at points was an insistent screech, refused to go, remained always in the background.

I woke up with a sense of relief—at first. A minute or two later into waking comprehension, I noticed the sound was still there. Actually, it was being made by the ceiling fan in the bedroom, squeaking on its hinges. Some of you will know that in certain states of mind, a ceiling fan can be a terrible thing to notice, especially if it is making a multi-tonal squeaking sound that might be mistaken for a cacophony of birds. Was the fan going to fall on me? It did not, but I worried that it would fall on my grandparents who, in less than a week, were going to sleep on the same bed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I was walking with my mother on 2nd Ave and 68th St. in Manhattan. My grandmother and a woman unknown to me walked ahead of us. It was a warm and sunny June day like the one I woke to this morning. My grandmother’s pace was slow and hesitant yet we kept the same distance between us, ten feet maybe, still close enough that we could hear her voice call to us, ‘I’m tired, I’m taking the crosstown bus.” I read my mother’s thoughts which were my own as well: We wanted to keep walking, looking in shops and end up at the street fair marked by barricades a few blocks beyond. Nana and her companion stepped onto the M66 bus, the doors shut quickly and I watched it zoom the long block to 3rd Ave. Immediately I panicked. I had missed my only chance to be with her whom I loved so much and had last seen alive in 1972. Why so absorbed in the city around me was I trailing her instead of being with her? Salt from my sudden tears were burning my cheeks, mascara dripped to my hands, the street was unbearably hot, the passing crowd an array of arms and shoulders; I leaned against the stone railing of a walk up. Stroking my hair my mother said, “You don’t really want to go”.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I dreamt about Niagara Falls.

Monday, June 4, 2007

On a high level of a building like a hotel or a mall where the levels
rectangularly wrap around an inside which could be an atrium but isn't
there is no open air
the ceiling is sealed off
people can see other people from across the center and at strange
unexpected angles because all rooms face the inside
which acts like its outside the way everyone walks along the ledges of
balconies as if they were theirs but they are not balconies they are
edges of this rectangular walkway wrapping around the center

On the high level which can see other levels below askew faintly other
people engaged in other tasks or celebrations but here on this level i
have neon colored thread i am performing with
i call up someone and i jump rope at them
it is hard to jump rope with thread
but the crowd loves it
train whistles blow and confetti blows and party noises can be heard
from dissonant angles
cheering on the show
which i think is nothing special
but the crowd loves some part of it
their love feels so blind i think here and there
are they watching someone else
is what i am doing what they are cheering on
i continue, though, my performance
inviting the men and women standing in the loitering line up so i can
perform my rope on them, at them, with them
the way i jump rope in the presence varies
i call adam up and i jump my thread rope at him for a second excited
but then entirely indifferent swing the rope a little side to side
dont even jump over it
and the crowd cheers and gives a low ooohhhhh, but it is slight, and
not entirely what it seems to be, the oooohhh quickly skews into
another sound and the usual response of the crowd cannot be so easily
defined as a clear, unanimous feeling
I had trouble sleeping last night, so I worked on a project of writing poems in response to collages by Tony Fitzpatrick. One of the collages has a blackbird or starling in the center; another one has a bird also but it is titled "Grackle." So, I went to sleep wondering if the first bird were a starling or a Grackle also. I dreamed of sitting on the floor and a dark colored bird, a starling perhaps, was staring up at me and we seemed to be mind melding in some way; waves of empathetic feeling between us. The bird was very aware and intelligent. I felt like the bird was like my baby.
[dream a] we were getting into bed agreeing appointment of new assistant administrator who has an A minus

[dream b] grad student Christine in my office complains about her lack of money I moan old age has caught up with me books & papers in avalanches & cascades descended to floor folders emptied photos in heaps then bell rings someone calls train arriving I hurry out no time to lock up nothing worth stealing platform inside the building gap to step to train dangerously wide finger-tip hold only I can't clamber into carriage thanks for nothing two men on board watch me struggle say 'the doctor will be coming soon'

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I'd gone "back home" to New Orleans to reconnect with childhood friends. In a red-walled room overlooking the ruins, Ted tells me the first girl I ever loved has become a recluse: "No one ever sees her anymore." The sky is dark, threatening rain, or worse. A flock of giant raptors gathers on one of the roofs across from us. Suddenly, one of them takes off and flies right at us. When it hits the window in front of us, we can clearly read the glyph on the side of its head, but we don't know what it means. We leave the window and enter another room. This one has iridescent blue walls and enigmatic objects arranged on the tops of chests of drawers. Ted says they are not there for us, but for some previous visitor. Then he cradles my head in the crook of his arm, presses a nerve on the side of my neck, and I wake up.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I was traveling deeper into China on a train, accompanied by a long low flat black box, and all along the way, running through my head, was that Amy Winehouse tune "Rehab."