Friday, October 30, 2009

I went to a reunion of ‘old girls’ at Vaucluse, my senior school. I travelled through the grounds with one of my younger sisters who had also attended the school, one year below me. At one point we decided to travel down a long chute. It would be steep, I thought, like going down a slide in the park; only this one was long. I could almost feel my body torn apart in anticipation of the speed, but once inside the chute we slid down gracefully, not too fast as I had feared, but comfortably as if there were some traction between our bums and the surface of the tunnel. It was made of blue plastic.

After we landed at the bottom we stood inside a small room at whose centre stood a table covered in a fancy silk cloth. Another girl, who also once went to our school, a girl who had boarded with me, whose name was the same as that of my sister, soon followed us. But this girl was big, whereas my sister now and in the dream is and was pretzel thin.

There was a note pad on the table that included names and addresses. I flicked through it hoping to find a sign of my favourite nun from school days. But her name was not there.

Then I was inside a church with a gathering of ‘old girls’ from my class. A few recognised me but no one seemed interested in taking time to talk to me beyond an initial hello. I looked at the faces of these ‘old girls’. I peered through the present into the past, past layers of wrinkles and grey hair, to find the girls I might remember.

I was desperate to find someone who had been meaningful to me when I was at school, but before I knew it I was preparing for the train trip home. The train took ages to arrive. After I had stepped inside, it took even more time to assemble itself for the trip. Seats folded and unfolded, panels snapped open and shut, as of they were orchestrated by some invisible machine.

Once it took off the train travelled fast, so fast that some people, including me were thrown out of their seats. My body bashed up against a partition midway through the carriage and I held onto a couple of small children who had also been flung from their seats. When the train reached its destination I realised we were back where we had started.

The weather had turned foul by now, with sleet and rain bordering on snow. It was dark and freezing cold. I tried to walk across the mud to the next train. Three other trains arrived at the same time. I had no idea which one to take.

I could not get traction in the mud and seemed to be walking without getting anywhere. Someone hoisted me up onto the train, but I realised almost immediately that I was on the wrong train yet again. I woke up breathless.

Several of my friends, who are suddenly much older, have been summoned to “the war.” It breaks my heart to see them as they arrive one by one, uprooted from their families, lives, and cares, to receive their orders and gear. One with whom I’m very close stops at a little wooden booth called the “supply depot,” but the only supplies left are pencils. He takes an unsharpened one from the counter, then turns and looks my way. His questioning expression reminds me that I’m supposed to accompany him to the train, which I haven’t seen, but imagine as a human cattle car like those Solzhenitsyn described in The Gulag Archipelago. But instead of showing him the way, I lead him out into a field of bones, thinking, “Someday, someone, somewhere, has to say no.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Home is a strange place, my father here, alive again, knee-deep in a pile of leaves. Angles and eaves and broken-down tables; shadows on paths through the trees. I want to smoke, but each match is snuffed by the breeze. The book falls apart in my hand. I notice a car in the yard. My father is behind the wheel. I slide in on the passenger side. The dash is alive, a futuristic arrangement of buttons and blinking lights. One of them is white — much to my surprise, it’s a cigarette lighter. In my father’s hand, the end of it burns like a star. I hold up a large uncured tobacco leaf. Night intervenes; with an old rag, he wipes a constellation from the windshield.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

aaargh the dreams... was about to fly off to Japan with G. for some reason the airport was on the lower east side near delancey street... I stopped in a little store to buy some olive oil... why would I need to bring olive oil? and then remembered I hadn't brought my cell phone or back to some apartment... not ours... but we'd been staying there... almost no furniture... an apparition slipped in... female, I think... maybe a homeless person using the bathroom... although too much like an apparition to actually use a bathroom... and then she slipped out again... and then I realized... Gary was nowhere to be seen... the flight was leaving in a half an hour... I still didn't have my cellphone... I thought OK I'll rent one... but where was Gary?... I noticed the olive oil was dark, like unprocessed argan oil...
I dreamed:

Barrelhouse Dave was pissed about a blog post I wrote about Barrelhouse. He told me to stop trying to be funny and stick to writing about "minor" poetry

of a woman poet who wore blue face make-up

I downloaded a bunch of scary/Halloween movies to watch with Chris, but there was only one he was willing to see

I made up with a writer with who I recently had an icky interaction
An editor from the West Wind Review accepted my poems and suggested I use the nickname "Sous Rature." Then my sister told me that's a stupid idea and I shouldn't.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In my dream, I'm playing tennis and break a string in my racquet (in my actual life, I've NEVER broken a string - not once). I go into my tennis bag and pull out my other stick, and the strings in that racquet have turned into limp spaghetti. I decide to find my old racquets and all their strings are in some state of unplayable fray. I'm supposed to play a match...

Also, as part of the "find my old tennis racquets" section of the dream, I discover that we have entirely new and enormous rooms of the house and barn I've never seen before that are filled with someone else's stuff.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I recently had a dream that was so vivid it left me seeing ghosts everywhere (in a good way). I dreamt that I took a walk along the familiar downtown streets of my hometown, Lewiston, Maine (I'd just been reading and researching historical sites, old industrial era mills, etc.) and suddenly there was a suspension of time as we know it. As I walked along a familiar sidewalk in the present, everyone who'd ever walked down that street at any given time in the past were walking their routes too, at the same time. The layers of activity created a bustling scene, yet everyone was somewhat transparent and able to walk through one another without interruption or notice. The longer ago the person walked the route, the fainter their image. I crossed paths with old relatives and loved ones departed while in their youths. I called to them without connecting, but felt the comfort of their presence, nonetheless. I specifically remember walking alongside my Uncle Larry, my father's older brother who died in 1945 in Belgium during WWII. I never met him, but have heard enough about him to realize that I'd have loved to have had my Uncle Larry to enjoy and grow up knowing. I just savored walking with him. I couldn't reach him to speak with, but his presence was a comfort. Since that dream I have a hard time looking at things as separate from the past. I also know, as a consequence that my own footprints resonate into the future and affect its outcome, even if ever so subtly. Uncle Larry, because of who he was and his interactions with his brother (my father), Claude and countless others, played a role in shaping who I am. There cannot help but be a resonating influence, even if a very subtle one. I learned that while dreaming and awaking to a new understanding. That is also what art at its best should do: awaken us to new understandings. I think a great work of art should invite the viewer to places completely unknown, yet mysteriously familiar. What comes from the subconscious, or dream state is the stuff of universal truths because it has no agenda except to become known.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In last night's dream, Alli & I were in conflict.
There was the appearance of a formula around which our argument circulated; it was this:

x [ or else = or ≠ ]

Cute cues, but it was a bad dream.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I go with my husband to visit our new flat some ten minutes away from where we live. We still possess our ordinary large house, as it is now where we live with three of our four children though one of them, the youngest instead of being fifteen years old in the dream is still a baby on the brink of walking. The flat that we will soon occupy – only my husband and I for short spells, for the occasional weekend or at nights during the week when my husband cannot stand the pressure of life at home any longer – is in a state of incompleteness. There are boxes stacked one above the other, some opened and some minus half their contents, in almost every room. It has a living-out-of-a-suitcase feel.

That’s okay I think because we will never live here. It’s just an occasional escape from the rigours of ordinary home life. Of course we must take the baby with us. We cannot leave her at home alone, even with her older sisters. The flat has two storeys and already I worry about how she will manage the stairs.

At one stage I start to walk around the flat in the company of a friend and neighbour. I offer her the grand tour. By the time we reach the upstairs bedroom I realise how unliveable this place is. We cannot sleep here. The beds are disassembled. Even the packages of tea on the kitchen sink are still sealed in hard-to-get-at boxes.

We plan to take a bus back home but we are not sure how to get there. Then we are in the car and I urge my husband to follow the blue Ventura bus. It goes to the school, and once we arrive at the school we will recognise where we are. We follow the bus past the schoolyard, which has been cleaned up and extended over the holidays. The back of the schoolyard beyond the classroom buildings extends down some way into a gully. It slopes in stages with a couple of long cliff like drops onto flat grassy plateaux.

How can they allow children to get to such steep ridges? I wonder. This schoolyard is dangerous.

I wake up.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Voices wake me. I roll out of bed, slip my shoes on, follow the sound outside. A fine summer night. Stars and a bright full moon. The garage door is open. I move through the garage to the back door. The voices are coming from the other side. I open the door, step out, and the door bumps shut behind me.

Two of my neighbors—two women—are finishing a conversation. They don't greet or even look at me, but the mood isn't unfriendly. They're cheerful because of the children. Down the mountain (a strange mountain, not the one we really live on) I can see half a dozen young ones playing hide-and-seek among the trees.

One of the women says some kind of goodbye to her friend (I can't make out the words) and sets off down the steep slope. She disappears into the forest. I can hear her calling the children home. The other woman heads off the other way, up the mountain. She doesn't speak or glance my way. I don't feel slighted, just pleasantly invisible. The mountainside sloping up from where I stand looks strange: a series of circular stone terraces with stone steps spiraled around them. My neighbor must climb the steps to move from one terrace to the next. She appears and disappears as she climbs, dwindling with each higher terrace, until she's out of sight. I look back down the mountain: no one. The black pines look intensely distinct in the strong moonlight. The stars overhead seem larger than usual and oddly active—quivering or writhing. I feel completely alone and a little afraid. "Time for bed," I tell myself out loud.

The door back into the garage is locked, so I decide to go around the house and come in through the side door. But when I clear the corner of the garage I see this isn't my house. I'm on a flagstone terrace. The sliding door a few feet away is open. In a state of confusion, as if to verify that this is really not my house, I slip through the sliding door and into an unfamiliar living room or den. From a tiled entryway across the room a staircase climbs in my direction and vanishes into the ceiling. Off to the left there's a shadowy kitchen. The only light comes from a narrow trapezoid of moonlight on the carpet. I move toward the stairway, wondering if anyone's home and if they might be sleeping upstairs. I slide my left hand along the wall that encloses the space under the stairs, feeling for a light switch.

From behind me comes a man's voice—strong but not fearless. "What are you doing in my house?" I try to turn and face him, but can't: I feel almost paralyzed. I try to say it's just me but my throat too is paralyzed. So I keep inching my way along the wall as if he might not notice. The man, voice rising in pitch with each word, calls out behind me, "I have a gun!" I keep inching forward until I reach the foot of the stairs, where I stop. Across the entryway I see the light switch glowing beside the front door.

Suddenly I feel completely empty—a profound resignation. I know I'll never be able to reach that switch.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peter Lamborn Wilson wants to visit an out-of-the-way place called Mud Bay, where there's an island inhabited by rare auks, and possibly visited by Crowley before. We can't find it on the map, but we (Robert, Peter, and I) manage to locate it on GPS and drive to a gloomy-looking bay that looks like it might be near Providence. There's a ferry once a day that goes to the island. When we get there we see nothing but wasteland, a wide lane that seems to lead nowhere, a few low buildings in the distance. The inhabitants all seem to have octopus heads covered by masks in the shape of human faces, but that doesn't alarm us much. I spend the rest of the dream trying to leave the island, trying to convince Peter that we don't really need to see the auks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Last night I had two dreams. The first one I dreamed that Gideon opened a box and let out all the animal-flies. The crocodile-fly grew full size and bit my arm. Crocodiles and snakes occasionally bite me in dreams, so I'm kinda used to it. My second dream was about writing poems again. The first one was long and ended with an exclamation to Harriet! I was quite emphatic about that. Then I started my second poem, something about that story being over in my life.
In my dream last night we were traveling through strange parts of the countryside, a long way from home. Rocky gullies, deep valleys, overflowing waterfalls. At one point we met up with my oldest daughter, her partner and their two-year-old son.

We were in a bazaar buying jewelery. I pointed out to my daughter some of the extraordinary and cheap earrings that hung from a wall, when her son fell over. He fell heavily and the impact of the fall made his head fall off. I could only bear to look for an instant but I knew he had been decapitated, the blood a trickle from his headless neck. I looked away and was swallowed up with grief.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Last night I dreamed that I was getting a tattoo of a famous actor, a woman, but I was uncomfortable with it because I knew I didn’t really like her. But I was committed to the tattoo and felt I had to go forward with it. Luckily my tattoo artist refused me the tattoo and I was grateful. I can’t remember who she was.

In my second dream I was in school studying writing. Reb Livingston was my professor. She gave me a task of collating a bunch of manuscripts. Each manuscript was divided by a beautiful bookmark that Reb had made herself out of silk. Reb went home and I was there with another student. For some reason I got panicky and lost track of all the pieces of paper. Pages went missing. Bookmarks slid from one manuscript to another until they were all a mess. The other student, a blond woman, asked if I wanted to go to a party. We got in her car and she told me that she had read my diary and hated my writing. I yelled at her YOU READ MY DIARY? And she told me to get out of her car. I didn’t care that she hated my writing, but was horrified that she had invaded my privacy. I walked back to the school to fix the mess I had made of my task and there was a young man my son’s age asleep in the corner. He asked me if I wanted a glass of wine. He had the key to Reb’s desk. We opened it and found two beautiful hand blown goblets, a kind of pale rose color, and a bottle of wine. We started drinking and he told me that everyone in the class had read my diary, that it had been passed around in derision. Then he told me he was homeless so I invited him to live at my house for 3 months. I told him he was my son’s age and we didn’t have much money but we had a spare room in the basement and he would be warm and have food to eat etc. He gave me his father’s phone number so I could call and tell his father our plan but every time I dialed I got the wrong number.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In my dream I go to visit a doctor. Whatever I have gone to visit her about, she decides to use the opportunity for giving me a thorough examination. She takes my temperature, my blood pressure and examines my breasts. I am confident she will find nothing wrong but on first count she thinks she has detected ‘sclerosis’, she says, or some such thing. She pummels my left breast again and decides that no, she is wrong. It’s okay. Then she has me standing erect, naked and seems to be bouncing me up and down with her hand on my buttocks. I think she is checking for a prolapse or some such thing. She continues to examine me in the way some doctors do with no explanation as to the whys or wherefore of her approach.

I stand there meekly obedient even though I long for it all to be over. At one point I look towards the open doorway and notice my regular GP walk past. I have decided not to see this GP anymore.

For some reason whenever I go to see this particular doctor I feel guilty as if I have been bad – I have drunk too much wine, my diet is improper, I work too hard, am too irreligious – and I imagine she will scold me for it. In real life she never does this, but in my imagination she is constantly scolding me. In my dream I have taken action by deciding against seeing her anymore. My regular GP’s offsider, the one I am with now, is younger, younger even than me, but she does not leave me feeling guilty. She seems more down to earth, even as she examines me in this painstaking way. I feel less intimidated, more equal.

‘My patients are leaving me,’ I hear my regular GP say to her assistant as she walks past the open door. She looks in as she says this and looks directly at me. Our eyes lock and almost instantly I lose my balance and must spin around in order to save myself from falling.

‘I did not jerk away like that to avoid you,’ I say, as I regain my footing.

I feel a need to apologise but this is as much as I can say.

Then I am in the car park at the doctor’s surgery. I have offered to give my new doctor a lift home. She is eager to see her children. The car park is a mess of broken concrete and unmade roads. There is a traffic jam in the middle and I have trouble finding my car in the first instance and then of getting it out of the car park. Somehow I manage to do this and we are no longer in a car but on a train.

Flashback in my dream to a visit from an exchange student, a lovely girl from some place like France or Germany. She is puzzled by my family’s eccentricities, the way we lead such a chaotic life, irregular meals and odd ours. We sit in the back yard and a delivery man comes to drop off a machine my husband had ordered earlier but as he leaves he puts down a row of miniature figurines, characters from television and fairy tales – Snow White and the seven dwarfs, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck. I would like to keep these characters but I know they are not free. ‘

‘They are a seduction,’ I tell the girl. ‘The deliveryman put them there to get us to buy more.’

The exchange student decides she will take the train on her next journey and that she will sit on the train on the outside ledge where other passengers sit. I warn her that it is dangerous there. I see her on the train now clutching her suitcase in front.

‘It’s fine,’ she says, cheerfully. ‘There’s plenty of room.’ She is squeezed in like a sardine alongside several other passengers all nursing their luggage.

‘It won’t be so easy once the train gets going,’ I say. ‘It will wobble and jerk you all over the place.’

As the train takes off I see her in my mind’s eye. She has become me and I am desperately trying to keep my bottom perched safely on the narrow ledge. It is only a matter of time before I will be pitched off from the speeding train.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Our team of medieval warfare scholars is hiking across a European landscape. Coming over the crest of a hill, we all see the body of a 13th-century peasant woman, blond, wearing course but clean clothing and a snowy apron, her arms and legs extended cross-like, murdered, her hands and feet severed, her tongue cut out. She is young, pretty, her face calm. We all hover around the body, searching for clues, and all the other scholars, simultaneously, decide she represents a medieval murder that should be filed under "H"--I suppose that this is because of the symmetry of the butchery. I'm standing by her head, and I look out over her feet and notice, in the distance, an old tree that's been blasted by some storm, its roots torn out of the ground, hanging naked in the air. "Look over there," I say, pointing, and all the medieval scholars gasp and take off running towards this new clue, which appears to be much more "significant" than a murdered and mutilated peasant woman. The scholars enter a heated debate over what sort of tree this is, the exact trajectory of the tree trunk (north-north-west, or north-west-west?), the causative event (earthquake? storm? war? supernatural force?). "H" is left far behind; this new event merits a "V", a "W", possibly even an "X". The scholars argue passionately, pacing around the huge felled tree. I realize that this is the sort of event is what they long for, an event that is much more mysterious than the mundane ritual murder of the peasant woman. The tree has druid connotations; it's ancient. Indeed, the death of this gorgeous old tree--either through natural or human means--fills me with deep sorrow while the discovery of the peasant woman's body only made me feel a little sad.

On the morning of my presentation at a life writing conference called The Story of the Story I had a dream that felt so real it still seems as though it actually happened. I dreamed that when it came time for me to present my paper in the Noel Stockdale room within the library at Flinders University I went ahead of the others to set up and to tweak my paper for the last time.

In my dream an old friend, who is now dead, LB was the conference convenor. LB once lectured me in psychology. He was born around the same time as my father.

People had already arrived in time for the third day of the conference to begin. They sat in rows faces turned towards the front in readiness. LB asked me to start. Some people were still rustling papers and chatting to one another, so I had to repeat my first sentence. Then I started fumbling my words. I lost my place on the page and could not find it for what seemed like ages. People shifted in their seats and began to talk among one another. I could not regain their attention. I tried from the beginning and spoke loudly but my words would not flow.

I had rehearsed and rehearsed. I had tried hard. Now here it was: my turn to present, my turn at last, last speaker of the conference, and I could not get the audience to listen.

I tried to catch LB’s eye, to plead with him to get the audience to settle, but he would not look at me. The people in the audience then seemed to lose patience altogether and before I knew it they had decided to break for morning tea.

I had lost my opportunity to present. It had passed without my saying a word of what I needed to say. I was devastated and stood at the podium in tears. There was a small group of people nearby, the ones with whom I had shared a car en route to the conference. They ignored me, too. I was furious, but flooded with tears.

In my dream LB had become a medical doctor not just a PhD. I wailed to a woman nearby about how unfair he had been in not insisting to the audience that I be allowed to have my turn. I had tried so hard to prepare and now no one wanted to hear from me.

I woke sobbing and nothing felt as if it would ever be any good again.