Sunday, February 28, 2010

The End of Our World

We had heard the warnings: a nuclear explosion and death imminent. We needed to get to a safe space. People congregated in the school hall at the end of a corridor. I hoped my children were among them. I could not be certain. I was busy chasing up a couple of other children, two boys, one of whom insisted on climbing up a tower to have a look out and to help fix a technological fault. I called up to him to hurry.

People were racing along corridors to get to the safe place. We had only minutes to spare. A person on a loudspeaker counted down the seconds. All this in slow motion and I had still not reached the safe place.

Somehow the explosion went off and I found myself behind the closed doors of the school hall while I noticed my sister come racing down still outside. Could we let her in or would we be required to keep the doors sealed from then on through fear of radioactivity?

We opened the doors. I went looking for my children in this crowded building, out the back way towards the toilets where I met my husband. He and I were alone now in a sealed off toilet block, alone while the rest of the world was dying. We knew it was only a matter of time before we too would die. We sat on the floor and leaned against the wall. We were reconciled, tranquil even. At one stage I got up again and peeked through the door into the open courtyard and grey wafts of radioactive smoke full of heat poured in. I shut the door instantly and sat down again. We knew we would be unconscious before we felt any pain, before the heat consumed us. This was a relief. My husband was already drifting off.

Did we say our goodbyes? I knew we were soon to die but still I could not believe it. I wanted to see my children at least one last time assuming they were still alive.

I had taken off my shoes. I slipped them back on with the thought I will die wearing shoes. Then I decided to get up again. I was wide-awake. I went out a different door this time and was surprised that the grey breeze was not so powerful now. There was also a wind that seemed to blow the radioactive fog away.

I ran along the corridor into another building. Clusters of people milled around talking to one another. One person had even prepared a meal. He sat at a low table knife and fork in hand. It might be a good idea to eat, I thought. Who knows soon there would be food shortages.

One couple held a baby. I thought of my grandson. Where were they, my soon to be married daughter, her partner and their son? Where were my other daughters? I did not feel distressed only a vague sense of resignation as if I had accepted our fate, whatever our fate would bring. I woke up trying to locate each of my children.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

In this dream I am back in my hometown of Marlboro, NY at my grandmother’s house. Besides my grandmother and I, there are several other people at her house and we are expecting someone else to arrive momentarily. While we are waiting I decide to take a walk to the center of the village. It is winter, with a fresh snowfall on the ground. A large storm has passed through and there are about two feet of snow. None of the streets have been plowed, and no one else is out and about. As I approach the small grocery store on Western Avenue I notice that my dog is not with me and grow concerned. I turn around and head back toward the house, all the while calling for the dog, not knowing where she is. As I pass one house a man comes out on his porch and invites me in. There is a wood stove in his living room and near it a stack of firewood in a rack that he has built. At this moment a knock comes on the door, and the homeowner lets in another man, a fire inspector who says that the wood rack is not up to code. Apparently there is additional work that needs to be done in the bathroom, but what the connection is to the wood rack is puzzling. I laugh and tell the owner that he should have installed an outhouse. Next, I leave and continue walking toward my grandmother’s house. A snowplow has come through, making walking on the streets much easier. I’m still concerned about my missing dog, but when I arrive back at grandma’s I see she (the dog) is on the enclosed porch playing with another dog. At my approach she excitedly pees near the door and I tell my grandmother that I will wash it out the door with a teapot of hot water. As I go to fetch it, grandma tells me to get another pot of cool water to fill the birdbath in the front yard. As I am washing the porch I glance inside the house and see several people seated in the living room. There are also several dogs, and I count them. There are eight, of various breeds and sizes. Among them are a Scotch Terrier, an Irish Setter and a large brown dog of unknown breed. Thyere are also two cats in the room. I go inside and begin a conversation with a young woman - my cousin’s girlfriend. She asks me who is going to be performing at a local music venue. I tell her that rather than asking that question she should decide who she wanted to see in concert and contact that band’s management office in Woodstock to find out where they would be playing. At this point I awaken and the dream is over.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My father had everyone’s pay in a flat leather case, but he had decided that he was going to give the case to a courier for delivery. I tried to convince him that the courier would steal the money. Although there was doubt in his expression, he insisted that wouldn’t happen. Still hoping to persuade him, I followed him through the back entrance into a gloomy institutional kitchen. No one was around. We passed through a set of swinging doors with round windows in them. Suddenly there was about twenty feet of space between us. He met and whispered briefly with a very tall man in a suit. Then I followed him back outside. We were standing in the shade of huge buildings held up by granite columns. I tried again to tell him that the money would be stolen and that he would be held responsible. But he seemed powerless, as if the decision were now out of his hands. About that time, we were joined by the courier. She was about thirty-five, and clearly someone that shouldn’t be trusted. My father handed her the case. Once again, a large space opened between us, and I tried to guess which route she would take away from the buildings. There were several narrow passageways that led directly to the road, but she surprised me by taking the long way around. In no time at all, she had run on ahead of me, and was rounding the base of a mountain. I started to run after her, knowing full well that when I try to run in dreams I often have trouble gaining traction, or I run on my hands... so I stopped running and stood up to take a deep breath, trying to remember how to run properly — and then I was off again... until I was distracted by some cucumber plants alongside the road... the cucumbers were ripe, and if no one picked them they would be wasted... my father loved cucumbers... and then I remembered he was no longer alive. I felt one. It was soft. On closer examination, I found something wrong with all of them. I looked up in time to see the woman disappear as she followed the bend in the road.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I went to some foreign country with a group of friends. Maybe it was Hungary or Czech Republic, not sure. Maybe Russia? We had to take a train from some place to some other place. Along the way I was concerned about the quality or the status of my passport. I also grew concerned that I seemed to be the only person trying to keep track of what time it was, what time we had to be anywhere, or get back. At some point Cara Benson was there, and I think we were visiting Athena Stylos in a house she either owned or was borrowing. I think she owned it because at some point I was climbing up this very, very long, spiraling, meandering hand-made staircase, that I’m pretty sure she put together. It felt extremely rickety but everyone assured me it was strong nonetheless. The staircase was something I felt a need to replicate somehow, either drawing, or filming. It was like a Jan Svankmajer creation. Cobbled together, very comical, but also strangely beautiful (in its uniqueness and that it was made at all). It didn’t ascend at a consistent pitch, but dipped up and down in places. The pitch was mostly shallow, too, so that crawling/climbing along on it was not so much going up or down anywhere as all around a room. But also up. Then we were getting ready to go to bed (I think) and I think maybe I felt funny about not knowing where to sleep. Maybe Mackenzie Carrignan was there too? I think so. I think it was all poets from Dusie, a couple of dude poets as well. The whole of it was darkly lit, and everything felt old and worn. The next day we were getting back on our way, maybe to go home. We stopped in a café for a quick breakfast. Several people had already sat down around a wooden bar and were drinking some kind of café au lait or lattes or cappuccino. These were in small-ish clear glass cups and mugs, very brown…the foamed milk on top was also brown It looked all sweet and sticky. Foamy brown sugar. I sat down next to someone, worried (again) I was taking someone’s spot but sort of not caring because I felt an urgency to move on and to get us going so we wouldn’t be late for our train. Someone came out of the bathroom to re-join us, and then I woke up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I woke up from a dream in which I had a license plate that said ERIS -- which I thought in the dream meant YOU ARE, but realized upon waking that it means YOU WILL BE, or else it could be the Greek goddess of strife.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This morning I dreamed that I watched a policeman in an unmarked car pull over a woman driver directly in front of my house. The woman stood at the window of the police car and talked down to the policeman through his open window, the reverse of what normally happens when a person who has been stopped sits in their car and waits for the police to come to their car window to address them.

‘You provoked me with your driving,’ the woman said’. The policeman listened and then they were both outside of their cars face to face on the nature strip. The policeman started to write out a ticket. I could not hear their conversation now but I watched as the woman, aged somewhere in her mid thirties grew visibly upset.

Whatever she had been accused of doing seemed to come as a surprise to her and although I could see that the policeman’s manner had softened in his approach to her, he continued to write out a ticket. He went back to his car and I went over to the woman who was now sobbing to the point of breakdown.

‘He says I was going at 33 kilometres an hour, three kilometres over the limit. If ever there was such nitpicking.’ She wiped her eyes with her hand. What’s more, they say I have a blood alcohol reading. How can I?’

The policeman returned with a tester and the woman blew into its nozzle.

‘I haven’t had a drink since last night,’ she said, and I hoped for her that she did not drink so much the night before that it might still register in her blood. Clearly it did not because the policeman told her she could go after he handed her a parking ticket.

Next I was in a police car with three male policeman, rollicking chaps who enjoyed one another’s company. Somehow I had lost my handbag and they were taking me to the police station to sort it out. I had gone earlier to a shop and put my handbag and my daughter’s handbag down on the floor. I stood and watched a couple go through a dance routine. The girl was young, maybe only eighteen or so and dressed like a hillbilly, the man was almost double her size and perhaps three times her age.

They came together in a sort of country style dance, back and forth. It was not clear who was teaching whom to dance. I turned away to look for something to buy and when I looked back my handbag had been completely emptied of its contents along with that of my daughter.

The man owned up to it at the young woman’s prompting and he gave me back my belongings. Some how it seemed he would only rob those he did not know and for some reason he considered me to be an acquaintance.

Was I going to the police station to report him? I do not know. My memory of the dream peters off here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Last night I dreamed a parade of flying cars. My son's 57 Chevy was in the middle of the front row of cars. I thought it's about time and ran outside to see if my little Civic would fly and sure enough I turned the ignition and my car floated up above my roof.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Last night I dreamed I was watching soldiers in the desert who were surrounded by a large thick Plexiglas cage. I was on the outside of the cage banging on it with both my hands and shouting. They could neither hear nor see me. I finally gave up and sat down in the sand. I was naked and I knew I was dreaming as I was dreaming.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I was determined to dream & I did, in the hope that the time spent dreaming would free me but fearful that the trap might spring & would drag me still further down. There remained the bed to hold us up, to sustain us for the troubled days ahead. “You” was the name of someone but she used another name. I was exposed to it as well, angry enough to cut the dream short but willing to pursue it where it led. A friend attempted to be rational, yet the attempt itself was the cause of his depression & what made it so hard to bear. Here was a phenomenon no doubt but more than that a constant urge. Apart from being gracious the opportunity arose to tip our hand – much less our hats. A thousand thousand pardons. Is your brother in that group of young men leaning against a wall as nonchalant as in a photograph from years ago but unapproachable? A trip to somewhere – Italy, Mexico, I can’t remember—but did that make the wonder less extreme?

We were watching a movie in which three young men were featured – a young Jew & two others. A discussion followed after a failed phone call to Isaac Bashevis Singer, to see if we could meet him at his new apartment on the Lower East Side. I tried to point out to the others that the film’s director cast a blond-haired actor as his medieval Jew (Jews are not supposed to be blond), but the others wouldn’t let me finish my sentence. Feeling on edge I walked outside & smoked a cigarette.

I was on a train soon after, heading for Bremerhaven I thought, but I couldn’t remember at which station I should exit. I checked the directions I had written down, and they said Convent Avenue. But I seemed to have been traveling too long. I must have passed it, I thought, and I got off at the next station, which was clearly not what I wanted. I checked a large map on the wall opposite the track but Convent Avenue wasn’t on it. Was it still ahead or had I already passed it? I knew I had to ask someone, but the platform had already emptied out.

The streets around our old apartment house were covered with a dark green moss – something uncanny, that if I touched it, would burn or paralyze my fingers. I knew that the river was only a few blocks away & that if I reached it, there would be a chance of cleansing. But the child at my side – not Matthew but a dark-faced girl I didn’t recognize – kept pulling in the opposite direction. I felt that this was wrong, but I could do nothing else but follow.

I was watching a movie on or by Yosano Akiko, when people started rushing out & others rushing in, & I remembered that I’d forgotten the paper I was going to deliver at the poetry conference of which this was a part, along with an expert in Italian literature, a little swarthy man who was only now arriving.

Startled by the noise the old woman looked up & saw: the television screen was black & the basket on top of it was empty. She said: I know who did it, that young girl did it. Then she began to scream, or I did as a warning, & the women servants came running, & the household pets came running. And one of us kept screaming till I woke up.

In Germany again, with Ammiel or someone who looks like Ammiel, going to hear & meet an Arab poet. We are traveling by trolley to check out the performance space, and once we find it, we go to a street café around the corner to get a bite to eat. After we’ve ordered I realize suddenly that I not only don’t have money for the meal but nothing for the reading & the reader. I decide to go back home and leave, making my way back to a main street, where I ask directions in German and someone points me to a wide boulevard, where a trolley or a bus should be running. But when I get there I find that the road is under construction and have to make my way down a steep ploughed-up ditch in order to cross it. Trying to find the bus, trying to remember the number of the building for the reading, to which I must return. It’s number 403! – I’m almost sure of it – but I decide to wake up instead and to end the dilemma.

A group of young men leaning against a wall as if in a photograph but unapproachable, & I realize that I met them years ago on a forgotten trip to somewhere – Italy, Mexico, I can’t remember.

[These poems by Jerome Rothenberg were recovered, along with numerous others, for Retrievals, a volume of Uncollected & New Poems 1955-2005, to be published later this year by Mark Weiss & Junction Press. Thirteen previous installments have appeared since 2008 on his blog Poems and Poetics.]

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I had one of those dreams last night where I find myself taking care of a huge number of birds.

The dream often goes like this: I discover that, unknown to me, there is another bird in the cage with Lester, and that all this time I have been feeding and taking care of only Lester, and not this other bird, who is almost dead. In the dream, I always nurse the neglected bird back to health, but there are always close calls. Sometimes the extra bird, or birds, are not in Lester's cage, but in some other part of the house--frequently under the bed. Once, I was on a pirate ship pitching and heaving in the middle of the storm, and I had to prevent several parrots from drowning and going overboard. In another version, I'm swimming through rough seas while two parakeets sit on my head, singing.

In last nights dream, I heard parrots outside, so I went out to see them. There were two hyacinth macaws sitting in the tree about the apartment building dumpster. They looked quite ragged, but I eventually coaxed them down and took them into our apartment. I found an extra, hyacinth-macaw sized jungle gym and put it in one corner of the room. The macaws began to play on the gym and settle in quite happily. Lester didn't mind them, either. After the macaws were relaxed and preening, Mark came in with two rainbow conures. I found a large cage for them and some extra toys, etc, and soon they were settling in, too. Some version of this kept happening--either I'd go outside and see two parrots and bring them in, or Mark would. At a certain point, our entire apartment was filled with parrots--two to three in each cage (Lester was the only one not sharing his space).

The last bird that Mark brought in was a huge pelican--but in the dream it looked more like a cross between a pelican and a stork, since the bird was very tall. The pelican's beak was cracked, and there were stitches all around her neck. We nursed the pelican/stork back to health, and eventually removed the stitches.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I was seated near one end of a very long dining table. A few strangers were present. The table was covered by a cheap white cloth that looked like a giant napkin. The main meal had been eaten. In the distance, the salt and pepper shakers looked like windmills or towers, and seemed to be part of a large, rugged landscape. My mother was standing beside me, fretting about what had happened to her butterscotch pudding. As usual, she had poured it into the funny little champagne glasses we had when I was growing up. But the pudding was grainy, pale, and thin. When I asked her if she’d remembered the brown sugar, she was too heartbroken to speak. Then someone said, “Corn starch?” I looked around. That someone was me.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My dream had me pushing carts around a hotel basement somewhere and there was a vague menace.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Last night I dreamed I was sewing up babies' heads with thick silk skeins of embroidery thread, garnet red, sky blue, and grass green. The skeins were wound in the usual lazy 8 shape but the thread was difficult, slippery, and I thought the thread was actually skeins of human veins in spite of their marvelous colors and textures. The babies were lined up in a long crib in a Victorian hospital. They weren't crying, but they were quiet. I guess passive would be a good word. Perhaps they had been drugged. The embroidery thread slithered in and out of my needle, refusing to stay put so I was constantly stopping to re-thread, and this was the only thing that caused me concern.