Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In my dream this morning, I was once again speaking on the phone to the salesman who says things twice. He was explaining to me me how to use my steam mop. He said "It is as easy as cleaning a barn" twice. I can never figure out in these dreams if he he saying things twice because he's reading a script and trying to ...memorize the line or if he likes what he said so much he's trying to remember it for another time.

Massey: Do you have an active dream life? Do you ever lucidly dream? Do you return to the same places/spaces in your dreams?
Armantrout: I'm aware of dreaming every night. Some nights I remember a dream vividly, but more often I don't. I know that my dreams are full of chatter, full of voices. From what I read, I don't think that's necessarily true of everyone's dreams. Dreams fascinate me because in a sense they are little plays we make up for ourselves. We're the directors and the audience—and we're a good audience too because we almost always suspend disbelief.

In terms of lucid dreaming, I seem to have some control over my dreams. For instance, I don't really ever have nightmares. If a dream starts to get too disturbing, I generally wake up before anything too bad happens. Or sometimes the scary parts will be put at a distance somehow, happening to a character who doesn't appear to be me, for instance.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a number of sad or ominous dreams. I recorded some of them in Versed. Examples would be the 4th section of "Later" and the last part of "Worth While." If you read those sections now, I think you can see that I was giving myself a warning.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Painting: "Pig" by Norma Wilson

I'm very pregnant, overdue. My doctor put some kind second-skin, fabricy material over my stomach to speed up labor. I'm out with a bunch of people who are annoyed that they may have to drive me to the hospital. Chris is out-of-town on business. I call him up and tell him it's time. Then I'm in a parking garage, flagging down a man to drive me to the hospital. He seems put out, but agrees. I think he's worried about me yucking up his sports car. I get to the hospital and Chris is there waiting for me in the birthing room. I walk down the hall to my recovery suite. I must have paid extra, it's really nice, round-the-clock care. My uncle is there waiting for me, which is odd, but a nice gesture. I go to the bathroom to take off the second skin and to see if my water broke. Nurses and a toddler keep coming in, opening doors, disturbing my privacy. I get really frustrated. Someone from my suite yells that a large box of chocolates just arrived. I yell back that I'm kind of busy right now and would they please just leave it. A nurse has a band-aid. I ask what is it for--she says I have a little pig bite on my neck. I'm offended and insist that I certainly do not have a little pig bite on my neck.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Obras Escogidas by Kcho, Walker Art Center

I have been offered a place in a resort designed for people recovering from a variety of non-specific ailments.  Mine has something to do with my legs.  I have trouble walking.  The organisers offer me a special walking frame.  I use it warily.   

In the beginning we are able to work together well, we, the group participants and organisers, but as the days pass more and more people come to occupy the grounds and buildings of this camp.  In time it is so crowded it reminds me of what it is like to share the local swimming pool in summertime on the hottest of days.  There is scarcely room to move, let alone to play. 

In the dream my husband, my daughters and my young son join me.  My son is still in nappies.  He wears a white jump suit when I first see him at the camp and I realise he has grown since the last time I saw him.  The jump suit is one of his sisters’ cast offs, a little old fashioned and not suitable for a growing boy.  His nappy is full and I want to change it.  I go to change it but somehow someone distracts me and before I know it I have lost sight of my son.  
I scoot along under the power of my walking frame knowing that I am not using it, as I should, and anxious that one of the organisers will tell me off.  I realise soon this is unlikely.  There is no supervision anymore at this camp.  There are simply too many participants to manage.  There are children everywhere.  They play in underground caves where the earth has been cratered to form burrows.  Palm trees grow underground, reaching for sunlight through holes in the earth’s surface. 

I continue to look for my son whose name I remember is Norman.  I do not like this name.  I did not choose it.  What could have possessed my husband to choose such a name?  I cannot bring myself to call out my son’s name in public.   

It is a wonder that any parent can supervise a child in this place.  Chaos reigns. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Last night I had two vivid dreams. The first dream involved me going to teach a student and I drove down a long hill and my brakes went out and I drove into the student's living room. His father yelled at me. Later during the lesson I had to ask the father to turn the television down because it was disrupting us. That was my alarm clock. I hit the snooze button and the next dream was me with a bolt of pink flannel in a cowgirl design. I was wrapping records vinyl records at my job. The flannel was the wrapping paper. I was intent on making them beautiful when a man came along and decided to help. He couldn't get the flannel on neatly so he covered his record in pink bubble wrap. Then he wrote a rather long note and taped it to the mess and told me the note was a love letter to a woman. I took the record from him neatly wrapped it in pink cowgirl flannel scrunched up the letter and threw it on the floor.
I may have been dreaming AWP dreams last night as I had two distinct dreams with two distinct poets. The first dream was fairytale dark and lovely. Ana Carrete and I had big push brooms and we were sweeping the longest dock ever. The dock stretched out over the ocean. It was night and warm maybe summer and we were whispering and laughing as we swept. The next dream was with Laura Gamache who actually is at AWP. There were many women at Laura's house women inside women outside standing around talking the way friendly nice intelligent socially adept people do at parties and there some talk of having to join I had to join a club or a sorority to be part of the party and Laura had a scroll out a long scroll that I had to sign and I wanted to sign it I wanted to be part of it all but the pen kept slipping out of my hand or it would skitter off the page when I tried to write my name and Laura kept telling me very patiently to take it slow and I'd be okay but I knew I'd never be okay that I'd never be part of the party. This dream is not nearly as myterious as sweeping an immense dock in the ocean because it's pretty much how it goes for me. Every day. They were both good dreams and I blame the dreaming of poets on my brilliant editor Reb Livingston who started it.
I was with my friend who died three months ago in January. We were walking on a street beside the river, through a section of old abandoned warehouses. We came to a concrete ramp framed by a metal rail and followed it up to the back door of one of the buildings. He opened the door and we went inside. There was another door just a few feet in, guarded by a tough-looking young man who knew at a glance that we were both old enough to enter. He opened that door for us, and we walked down a long, narrow, carpeted hallway. At the end of the hall, we turned right and entered a dimly lit bar. We found an unoccupied table and sat down. A man I assumed was the proprietor, and who bore a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln, was sitting behind a small desk in the corner. He got up, came to our table, and asked us what we wanted. My friend said, “Two premium lagers.” The man bowed, went back to his desk, opened one of the drawers, and then returned with two clear, flexible, partially deflated rubber balls with short red straws in them. We could see the liquid sloshing around inside. My friend’s straw was sticking up; mine was folded down and stuck to the surface of the container. He took a sip from his, frowned, then offered it to me. Knowing he was dead, I was reluctant to drink from the same straw. He immediately understood and helped me free my straw instead. I took a drink. The beer was weak and warm. “This really isn’t what I had in mind,” my friend said. “Me, either,” I replied. We put down our beers and left. But the way out was not the way in. And so it always is, I thought. So it always is.
I watch video footage of a man who slices pieces off a woman’s face.  She stands impassive while blood pours from her wounds.  The knife is sharp and the man relentless.  I wake up.
Later asleep again I am in a hospital bed side by side with another woman, also in bed.  We are both pregnant and both expecting that our babies will soon be born.
Nearby I can see the white lump of something that looks like the abandoned shell of a cuttlefish.  It is all that remains of my previous pregnancy.

      ‘I’m going to keep this as a reminder,’ I say to the woman in the bed beside me.  Somehow I believe that I have lost my first baby through someone else’s negligence and I feel sad and angry at the same time.

Now I am worried about this next baby. Under the cover of the blankets my pregnancy lump looks small compared to that of my neighbour.  I have not yet dared to look at my swollen belly.  When I finally get the courage to do so I see a fully formed baby under a thin gladwrap-like membrane.  The baby curls around my torso ready to be born.

My mother comes to visit and admires the baby.

      ‘Why are her nostrils squished like that?’ she asks.

      ‘She hasn’t learned how to breathe on her own yet,’ I tell my mother.
It is only a short matter of time before my baby will be born.  I am impatient.  I notice two small tears in the membrane.  Will this rupture speed up the birth?  Will it endanger my baby? 
The alarm goes off and again I wake up. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

He is looking at a huge iron skillet sitting on a fire outdoors. In the skillet is a lot of melted butter and a tiny naked man. The man is slipping and sliding in the butter. He does not appear to be cooking. He's not red or brown. He's a tiny little pink naked man in a huge skillet sitting on a fire.
He is hanging on a cross being crucified like Jesus, only he doesn't die. Another man is hanging there beside him. The dream switches to a locker room where the two naked men are showering, washing the blood off them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Arbitrary Numbers  

We could have been in Russia, queues everywhere, including on the main road where my car had been stopped; one in a long line of cars at a roadblock.  A woman in grey uniform spoke with each driver, one after the other, before waving us on.  Some handed her money before driving off, others not. 

I knew that this woman was collecting special taxes and that whether or not I would have to pay was arbitrary.  It had something to do with the way she would interpret certain numbers on my driver’s licence.  To the observer these numbers represented a code that each licence holder in the queue of licence holders owned.  These numbers had most likely been allocated in order of receipt of licence, but this uniformed woman at the roadblock had her own idiosyncratic interpretation of those numbers and she did not share this secret knowledge with anyone.  It seemed she used it as the basis for her decision as to who should pay and how much.   

I figured I could afford an additional $200.00 but was hopeful that she would wave me on because I had already paid several hundreds into a special tax fund from which the government could draw if necessary.   

I looked down at the numbers on my licence and tried to decipher some meaning from them but I could not fathom what that meaning might be.  To me they stayed the same – a seemingly random bunch of numbers.
My turn in the queue moved closer. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Our back yard has become a resort, a holiday complex complete with artificially constructed hills, ponds and the occasional piece of play equipment.  Our house itself is also part of the holiday resort. We are inside the kitchen looking out into the garden when my husband notices that the left over pizza from the evening before is now covered in weevils, white squishy bugs.  I have seen the type before but never in such quantities.  They magnify before our eyes and large groups of them hang together in fist-sized balls teeming with life.
My daughters stand around disgusted and somehow, as usual, it falls to me to tidy them up.  I take a washcloth and begin to wipe them away and into a large rubbish bin bag into which I have already thrown the remaining pizza.  The bag moves under my hands.  Even I find the job disgusting especially as everywhere I look these maggoty bugs seem to be proliferating even as I try to remove them.
I find a pair of rubber gloves under the sink with the intention of being less timid in my clean up.  If I do not have to feel the bugs directly on my skin I will be able to pick up hunks of them and throw them into the garbage bag.
I have not completed the job when we all go outside for some unspoken reason.  Members of my family are scattered throughout the garden when I look towards the side entrance gate and notice a man who is naked.
Who is he?  What is he doing here?  I want to direct my husband’s attention to this stranger, when the man clutching his trousers around his belly walks into the centre of the garden where someone has set an old doorless car that is now used as a cubby.  Inside the cubby house I can see there is another man and a woman, both of them naked.  The first man comes along and helps the woman to dress.  The men dress themselves.  No one speaks to them, but we are all aware of their presence.  The three then walk out together and as they are leaving I notice one of the men hold hands with the other man and I realise both that they are gay and that one of the men is my brother-in-law.

      ‘I didn’t know your brother was gay?’ I say to my husband.

      ‘Nor did I’.  As so often happens to conversations in dreams this one ends here.
We are back inside the house in a bedroom, which I now share with some of my children and a couple of elderly women from South Africa.  The women are genteel, ladies of wealth, ladies from a bygone era, who find it hard to be part of this world.  They lie on top of their beds trying to rest but I am conscious that we, my children and I, might be making too much noise.
I try to draw the blinds but one of them sticks and the elderly woman whose window is nearest the sticking blind shows me a trick to dislodge it.  She insists we not try to be so silent.
We are on the downhill run to dinner.  I find myself fossicking through a large props cupboard that belongs to my children’s school.  It is filled with remnants of performances from years ago and I find myself reminiscing over certain items.  I understand that I can keep things from this cupboard and try to sort out what is of value and what not.
I include as many of my children as will participate in sorting through, including my youngest, a boy, a toddler who sits on the top rung of the cupboard, pinned in against my body to stop him from falling.  When he is ready to get down I call out to a young man passing by to take him from me.  I am perched on top of a ladder and it is an effort to pass the heavy toddler over to this tall young man, but we succeed and I am pleased to see this man and his girlfriend take an interest in my son.  Babies and small children always manage to bring strangers together.
I open a small tin of what I think to be beads and trinkets.  M looks over my shoulder.  She stands there with her husband, both of whom I have not seen for twenty years.

      ‘They look as though they’re alive,’ M says of the trinkets inside my tin.
I see these trinkets as sparkling insects in the colours of a Christmas beetle, a shining luminescence of colours, blues, green and gold.  I am relieved when I realise the trinkets are not in fact alive.  They are painted seeds from some berry tree and held together in a row with twine.
I wonder then whether all the weevils from this morning’s pizza have dispersed.  If not, I still have cleaning to do.