Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spot fires burst out in different sections of the kitchen, and from within the body of the radio which reports details of fires elsewhere, I can see the flames lick up the sounds. I use a hose to quench the fires but no sooner have I stopped one than another erupts.

Everywhere it is hot. A piece of metal on the ground is molten. I pick it up with tongs and toss it into a bucket of cold water. I do not realise at first that there is a crayfish living in this water. The heat of the metal causes the water in the bucket to boil. I hear the crayfish scream as it is cooked alive. Guilt as red and hot as the flames sears through me but I cannot pay it any attention. I pull the cray out of the water, thinking we can eat it later, that way at least it will not be wasted, but the RSPCA will be critical of me.

Tania, our old nanny, is desperate for a fruity bread roll, similar to the one I have put aside for later. I go to the shops to buy one for her, but they are sold out. Substitutes will not do. They are not as tasty, but I buy one anyway thinking I will give the one at home to Tania and eat the other myself. It should be okay toasted.

Everywhere outside en route to the shops are signs of devastation. I am fearful of the next fiery outburst.

In my hands, a framed sepia photograph of a crowded street in Mexico. Most of the men are wearing large straw hats, no two of which are alike. The picture comes to life: the hats, but not the faces or clothing, are infused with color; there is conversation, laughter, movement; the sound of a woman’s voice becomes the scent of gardenia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

End of the world dream. In NYC. Mass panic & confusion. A huge building with a four-story balcony inside, lots of people, elevators. Nobody knows where to go or what to do.

Somehow I get home. An SUV-sized (and shaped) bomb lands on the front lawn, but does not detonate. Then a missile the size of a fire extinguisher crashes through the window. Sensation & look of thousands of tiny stinging tick-sized black ants all over me.

Then I’m somewhere underneath the Tappan Zee bridge, at water level, debris everywhere. Manhattan side is frozen. A Tsunami-sized wave comes in from the west side of the Hudson. As it crashes in, I think about my son, who can’t swim. Intolerable sadness. I give in to the idea of dying, and am almost relieved.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I am -- as a matter of fact -- in the throes of publishing my book 'Poussin's Humour'. The book already has an author's preface. However, in the dream -- and none of the following is fact -- two prefaces have now to be included, one each by two men, who have information about the long frustrating history of the project that leads to the book. The book is now swelling until it becomes a novel (of sorts), with my original manuscript in the middle of these various accounts. I have agreed to this gladly.

One preface is already written, the other, by a man who has just won Lotto, has run into difficulties. I have to talk to my co-author urgently about the difficulties. After a long search I locate him. He is sitting under a low wooden overhang outside a building. He tells me he cannot talk to me now, he has to look after a partly incapacitated adolescent for some time yet. He agrees to meet me after 2 pm.

I start to go up the hill -- it's about half a mile -- because I have to teach until 2 pm. I take a different route from usual. I set out at a speed but soon realise I will have to slow down, if I'm to reach the top. On the way I meet a man who used to be one of my students nearly thirty years ago. His hair is grey and he is smartly dressed, a lawyer perhaps. He goes into a building on the right of the street and I go with him. We meet someone coming out who tells us this is the Fine Science building, in the same way that we talk about Fine Arts. My former student begins to tell me how his generation's drugs of choice were not marijuana, but pharmaceuticals easily available either off the shelf or by theft. That must have been 1980, or maybe 1979, I suggest, thinking of the sociology and the history of student drug-taking, and he confirms that suggestion.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

reading a pad with writing by an unnamed man, middle-aged or older, bearded,

a painter, Italian. It's in English. Word, Phrase. Two words, maybe. A few words

on each line ..... 'barefoot' ..... something sad, something else said. Again ...'barefoot'.

It's a video image. His bearded face and half length, above an advertising hoarding

with red edge & yellow panel ...... 'no erectile tissue' ..... His hands out of sight behind

the hoarding, moving. He invites five women to write on a white page. There are

five # 4 sable brushes in a water-pot. Unasked, I write a page with one of the brushes,

mixing some colour with a lot of white. This is how I must write, as he had.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I am a witch, along with another woman who seems to be my sister. We live in a cabin in the woods, and we control the elements by swinging on a large wooden swingset. We don't want other people to discover where we live, because they would ask too many things of us. My sister and I are happy in our cabin until one day when she thinks it would be a good idea to call Death in. I am afraid at first but then I see that Death is just a door: it looks like the plastic storage shed in our back yard, but narrower, just wide enough for a person to stand inside. I enter it and see that it leads to another world that looks very different from our own but is full of the same people, only none of them remember their previous existence. I come back to this world tired of existence and feeling an aching need to end the cycle, to remember, to wake up from this long dream.
I’m sitting at a table beside my father’s uncle, Archie, who died in 1985. We each have a full mug of coffee that’s much too hot to drink. My mug is the heavy glass one I usually use for tea. His is the shiny black one a friend gave me a few years ago. We switch mugs. Now the coffee is much cooler. We switch back. Hot again. I say, “It looks like someone is trying to tell us something.” Archie smiles. Obviously, that someone is him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Night after night for months now I've had a variation of the same dream. I'm in a school. I'm usually the teacher. The whole world has come. We learn in rooms of windows but no door and no walls. We are speaking in a language that no one has heard before but which everybody understands. There is one moment of a high wind blowing and one moment of sunlight brightening more and making the scene hard to make out.

There are more women than there are men.

There is an animal -- usually a four-legged animal.

At some point in the dream, somebody always comes back to life and someone won't come into the room.
I was on one side of a graveled road, my brother was on the other. Behind him was an old dormant filbert grove. I was holding a baseball bat. He threw me a perfect pitch, and I hit the ball deep into the grove. He ran off to look for it. The ball had hooked to the right, so I started walking in that direction down the road. After I’d walked about half a mile, I came to a restaurant. My brother was there. He said he couldn’t find the ball. There was a short line of people waiting to scrub their hands at a shiny metal sink. Behind the counter, my daughter was on a gurney, about to have a baby. I had no idea she was expecting. I hurriedly washed my hands. Somehow, even though I had never seen them before, I assumed the people ahead of me were her in-laws. There were no towels. I shook the water from my hands. I went behind the counter. My daughter was gone. A nurse told me they had taken her in already. I went back and washed my hands a second time. I went outside, and after walking a few feet across a wet lawn, I realized my hair and beard were covered with thick white spider webs. The more of them I removed, the more there were. I came to the corner of another building. I noticed something shiny by the foundation. When I bent down to look at it, a bright-green spider crawled into my hair.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

After Reading Seduction of the Minotaur

I met a woman who was French and young. We met in a second hand clothing store. She was trying on a plaid jacket that I had just brought in to the store a short time before. The store was going to sell it for much more than I thought they would or than it was worth. She told a friend in French that she would buy the jacket and then bring it back, complaining that this and that was wrong with it, and that way she would get part of her money back. I seemed to understand what she was saying in French and tried to say something to her, also in French. She corrected my French saying that my verb was an old-fashioned way of saying something, no longer in use. I tried to say what she was saying to me—to repeat the French phrase after her with the correct accent. Since however my French was not expert, I had no way of knowing if what she was saying to me was correct in the first place.

Then the two of us walked around the store for a long time. In the course of those few hours I met two different men who were her husbands. One was young and black and held a child on his shoulders. The other was heavy-set, dressed casually and much older. He seemed to have a secret of some sort, because they made signals to each other about what they were doing. Finally the young woman suggested that we make an appointment to meet at another time. She said that since this meeting had gone on for so long it must have been an indication that we were compatible. Finally, we ended up sitting in a corner on a wooden bench, spending even more time talking, but I don’t know in what language. Then as we sat there we watched a guy put oil on his body and attach little silver candy balls all over him in neat rows, those little silver balls that can decorate cakes. We were above him and could see him from our bench. Then quite unexpectedly he was able to eat part of his arm without hurting himself. We could see his left-over arm, kind of jagged.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Woke up at 6 AM from dreams of a semi-rural dinner party, and the man on the radio predicting 6-9 inches of snow this weekend.
I am in a place that looks and feels familiar. The air here is thick, almost gelatinous, and it, too, feels familiar. I sit at a round table in the corner of a room painted creamy yellow and filled with light. Although I am right-handed, a pen is poised in my left. There is a large sheet of paper on the table before me, and it is filled with strange words made with letters I don't fully recognize, though I apparently wrote them. There is an extravagant aloe vera plant in a round terra cotta pot, and nothing else. A bird sings urgently outside.

A phone rings. Suddenly the receiver is in my left hand instead of the pen. I look at the caller i.d., which says "Neruda." I am astonished, and wonder how and why Neruda would be calling me from beyond the grave. I hesitate for a moment, then press the "talk" button. The sound on the other end is scratchy and distant. A barely audible male voice speaks my name, then something else I have trouble hearing or understanding. The only word I recognize, or perhaps remember, is "estilo," as in "stylus," and also "style." The line goes dead. I marvel at having heard Neruda's voice like that.

On the table in front of me now is a glass jar containing colorful fragments of vitrified tile decorated with glyphs and designs. A bright azure blue is the color that stands out most. I awaken here and remember the Spanish word for "tile" - "azulejo". "Azulejo," I say, "azulejo," again and again.
I dreamed the night before last that I needed to reach the top of a tall building, some forty stories high. The lift had broken down and I needed to climb at least the last set of stairs on foot. In my mind’s eye I could see the top level of stairs and to my horror they were not ordinary stairs, the enclosed solid stairs you find in stairwells alongside the lift. These were metal stairs with thin railings that wound around and up to the ceiling. From these stairs you could look down and see below to where you had come from. I could not climb these stairs. I would be giddy on such stairs. I would feel constantly fearful of falling. I could not make my journey to the top.

Then tonight I dreamed among other dreams I no longer remember that I was having dinner with an old colleague, Simone. She had invited another colleague Antoinette to join us at dinner. I am not aware that the names of these people seemed significant during the dream itself but the moment I woke up I knew that these were the women in my dream.

We were eating our meal at the top of a stair well on the landing. Out of nowhere, unprovoked it seemed, Antoinette threw herself over the stair rail into the void below. She fell down several flights and I knew she would be dead when we reached her body at the foot of the stairs. Dead she was, though her body was not smashed up, simply inert. Simone seemed to know more than I about why Antoinette had jumped. To Simone it seemed a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But I was troubled.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Birds on the List

I've had two dreams of note
in the last couple of weeks
and only one I can remember right now
which I don't think is a dream in the sense
of some visual dream narrative
but some context of anxiety
I'm in a professional hockey game
sitting on the bench in full uniform
any second now the coach is gonna tell me go
and then I'll jump over the boards
but I can't skate very well at all
and I'm super embarrassed but I try to follow the puck
but I can barely move
and I know i'm gonna get drilled
by some little punk from grade school
who I never liked and was always better than
it's basically the same dream
as the one where you're sitting in class with only your underwear on
which is a pretty powerful sentiment
I mean sometimes I spend half my time
worrying to myself that I'm a fraud
and the other half proving i'm not

the other dream is better
it's deeper somehow and prizmatic
it's beautiful and special
but I can't remember it
I think it had something to do with war
I dreamt at least once maybe twice
I didn't want to forget it
I went around looking for it talking to friends
asking Becky if she remembered me talking about it
and she didn't
but she told me to write about
all the birds I should be so lucky to see
the birds on my list
the ones I've seen
and the ones I'm dreaming to see
and then it hit me, the dream

I was standing in total darkness
when this spectacular bird appeared and flew in front of me
looked at me squarely from the side of its head
it was a heron, large with a long and sharp beak
it had this incredible yellow streak on its crown
and I immediately misidentified it as a yellow-crown night heron
because behind it was black as night
with flashes of yellow and orange along it's crest
but it was almost uniformly blue
and absolutely unfazed by my presence
a simply beautiful dream
that failed to resound enough
for me to remember it

but I remember wondering when I woke up
if that kind of heron may exist in the world
and if not in the world
it exists now and I'm happy to see it
forget about it and remember it again
and have a chance to describe it

usually how it works is this
you look through the bird books and see the picture
or the peterson or sibley drawing
you try to figure out what time of year you might find it
and in what kind of environment
and then you have to be persistent in looking
but even then you have to be lucky
and if you find the bird it's truly uplifting
its forms a direct and unmitigated convergence of natural histories
the bird's and the birder's
but what of the dream birds, the abstract birds
the pest birds that follow humans
living off waste following the interstates
I won't forget seeing certain birds for the first time
american and least bittern, green heron, bald eagle
or seeing thousands of canada geese at Oak Orchard Swamp
they have been poetic moments

I almost forgot my dream night-heron
but now I won't
writing this poem while hanging out with friends all day today
and having the dream heron come back to mind
and making it public
skating out to center ice getting booed because i can barely move on skates
hoping to make a little something real out of the world
into the world

Looking out across this vast urbanscape, reminiscent of São Paulo, concrete high rises as far as the eye can see, I wonder how it's come to this. I'm very high up, on the open-sided top floor of a building undergoing further construction to make it taller still. In fact a good number of the buildings seem to be undergoing similar upward construction, evidenced by the huge cranes on top that swing around dropping steel girders into place with a clang. A fierce wind blows, giving me the sensation that if I don't retreat into the lower, finished section of the building, I'll blow right off the top.

I'm inside now, but a more imminent danger threatens. I'm on the hit list of some sinister agency that's hunting down dissenters and "disappearing" them. This, it turns out, is part of the purpose of the cranes on top of the buildings - the crane arms swing around and pluck dissenters out of the buildings, then deliver them to the head of the agency, a shadowy figure who inhabits one of the buildings.

A dark-haired woman in a white blouse and gray skirt comes rushing in. She speaks to me in Portuguese, telling me to come quickly. I follow her to another floor below that has no windows. It is dark, damp-smelling, and apparently safe, at least for now. She tells me to wait here, then rushes out as quickly as she appeared. I wait quietly in the dark, my heart pounding. The only sound now is that of my own breathing. I awaken here, and the sense of menace slowly dissipates.

Monday, April 6, 2009

last night: was very excited & curious to find self in n korea. wandered around among a lot of buildings atop huge hills, led to by vast gray sets of stairs. perfect & gorgeous constructivist-style pyongyang extending in all directions. then the thought, "but I warned Qingshan not to come to north korea, because what if he couldn't leave?" became concerned that I'd be mistaken for a spy. then met a deranged middle-aged american women holding a bundle of wild-colored balloons afoot some govt ministry building. can't remember what she said, but unsettling. first two things I saw when I woke up: (1) text message Qingshan had sent me in the night from china, which read "This truly is a huge, huge country with a long, long history"; (2) news reports of Obama's speech about nk rockets.
My son and I were watching what appeared to be a very large black TV screen. On it they were diagramming a new NASA project, a space station for actors. We watched as the house where the actors would live out in space, glided inside another glass structure that was something like a glass box. The house and the box were both made entirely of glass. I commented to my son that the glass was for the sake of a 360 degree view in outer space.

Then we were standing outside the glass house, waiting for a tour. Another person came up to join us for the tour. Quite suddenly he was inside and we were still outside. We knocked on the glass wall saying—you forgot us. The NASA scientist said he couldn't let us in. I screamed back at him, at the top of my lungs—and what are we, chopped liver?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Hold out your hand," I say. "I have what you need." My directness alarms you.

I hold up my left hand, and a liquid red cord spills from my fingertips. "See - a scarlet penumbra," I say, drawing out the "num" and feeling the palpability of the syllable on my tongue.

I drop the cord into your open right palm. Although you say nothing, I can see that its substantial weight and warmth surprise you. I take one end and wrap it around your little finger.

"There," I say emphatically, "you know what to do," and awaken here.