Monday, September 27, 2010

In my dreams last night I am a schoolgirl again at our annual sports day.  Instead of holding the sports at the girls school, the same school my daughters now attend – though in my dream it becomes my old school – the teachers use the sports grounds and facilities from our sister boys school.  Boys’ schools tend to be much better equipped when it comes to sports facilities. 
I wander down long and steep driveways, initially in the company of one or two others whom I know well, but over time I lose contact with them and I walk on alone. 
At the far end of the sports ovals, the ground has been excavated and there are steep cliffs and stairs that lead down to the open sports field below.  Activities are about to begin and I am still not dressed in my uniform.  Some one has piled all the regulation sports uniforms from all the girls into the middle of a large table and we are told to wear any items from this pile that fit.  There is no point trying to locate our own uniform as it would take too long.
 I have trouble removing my t-shirt and I worry that I have no bra.  Other girls around laugh good-naturedly at the sight of my bare breasts but I am on the edge of feeling humiliated.  It is hard to get my clothes on and off.  They are too small for me, and too tight.  Eventually I manage to change into the white sports t-shirt and navy shorts of our uniform and I run out onto the field. 
 There are hundreds of schoolgirls everywhere and no one seems to be organising any events.  In one open field there is a circus tent filled with play equipment, the sort you might find at a fair.  Some girls have attached themselves to these machines and they bounce along the ground, up and down under the tent’s inner dome on stilts or suspended on pulleys.  
 It does not seem like a competition.  They are having too much fun.  Everyone seems to operate independently and there is no one to judge or take notes.  It looks like a free for all.  In the end a siren goes off and the girls abandon their harnesses and leggings and move on to the next oval.
 I wonder whether I will be expected to compete.  No one has told me in which relays or events to take part and I imagine, given how lost I feel that I might spend the entire sports day avoiding any activity.  I am not alone here.  In fact it seems to me there are no sports activities taking place whatsoever.  Just a crowd of schoolgirls wandering around in groups, pairs or singles, and all looking disorganised at best, at worst lost.  Like in a scene from a Harry Potter movie, we move in strange unknown worlds.

Dream 26 September 2010
 The knowledge came to me slowly in my dream.  My daughter had been accused of murder.  It could not be true, I thought.  How could my gentle first born be accused of such an act? 
 To make matters worse, my informant, a man I recognised from my previous workplace, told me that it was the second time my daughter had murdered someone. 
‘You might call it manslaughter,’ he said.  ‘I don’t.  She pushed a person to the point he fell, hit his head and died.  In my book that’s murder.  She should be gaoled for it.’
 My daughter in gaol.  The thought horrified me.  What of her infant son?  Waking was a relief.  To know it was only a dream, but then I fell into another in which a couple of loutish boys had managed to get into my back garden. 
 I had seen them earlier on the street and worried that they might throw sticks at my dog.  By the time I reached the side gate, which we keep locked to stop the dog from getting out onto the street, I could tell that the boys had already been inside.  The gate was askew hanging off its hinges.  I tried to right it at the same time as I held onto the dog by his collar to stop him from running out. 
 The boys must have heard me.  I could see them on the street in front and soon they were half way up my driveway.  I was not fast enough to bolt the gate.  They were inside my back yard again and into my kitchen in no time and with them came two others, an unkempt old man and a middle-aged woman. 
 The four ran amok in my house, overturning chairs, stealing food from the fridge.  They trashed the place and I could only watch helpless as my children stood around terrified. 
 I grabbed my mobile phone from the bench and dialled 000.  I dialled these numbers by instinct. 
‘Where are you and what’s the trouble?’ a voice said over the phone.  I gave my address. 
‘Some hooligans are trashing my house.’
I yelled across the room to the four invaders that I had called the police.  In minutes we could hear the sound of sirens. 
By the time the police had arrived, the two boys, the man and the woman had settled down.  Now they behaved as polite visitors and fooled the police into believing that I was the troublemaker, not they.  I had called the police out on a false alarm. 
The four intruders righted chairs.  They cleared the benches.  They spoke politely such that the police had trouble distinguishing who was in the right and who in the wrong.  I woke up. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In the dream I have a teenage son who I’m worried about. He’s a musician and artist, always in his room practicing his guitar or painting, and lately he’s been having some kind of internal emotional issue that makes him very hard to reach. Lately we’ve been arguing bitterly over the tiniest things. After these arguments he usually storms into his room and slams the door, or storms out of the house and slams the door. He won’t appear again until late in the night.

There’s been another development in my son’s life. An intense writer friend of mine, a woman around my age who has been over to our house for tea a number of times, has begun to reciprocate my son’s crush on her. I’m a little off-put by the situation but also strangely relieved that she will be my son’s first sexual experience. It settles the question in a way that feels somehow familiar and reassuring. Still, I am not at ease. My friend is a strong, sensitive woman and like all writers, she’s prone to moods of her own. My son is physically and intellectually mature for his age, but can he handle the challenges of adult emotion, an adult relationship?

One evening my son and I have an especially bad argument. He packs his gym bag with several changes of clothes and storms out of the house. It’s clear I won’t see him again for several days, that he’ll be holed up somewhere with his paramour during that time.

My partner tells me there’s nothing to worry about, but still I worry. I think about the kinds of manias and delusions that can result when two artists in distress come together and pour their souls out to each other. I imagine blissful states of communion but also the potential for horror: madness, murder, a suicide pact. My partner tells me I’m being melodramatic, that these are not artistic anomalies but simple human facts of life.

We start to argue about this, but our quarrel is interrupted by a noise at the front door. It’s my son and my friend, emerged from their exile. There’s a large canvas propped up between them, a painting they made together to commemorate their affair. The composition is stunning, and from the exhausted look on their faces, I can tell that the work was dangerous and far from easy for them. My partner invites them in for something to eat. I feel relieved, and proud of my son.

As I wake up, these words go streaming through my head: Every art collaboration is a death-tempting experience.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I am a young boy with a fistful of glass, blind and sitting in Ocean View Cemetery. Raymond Carver's grave is right in front of me. I hold the glass reverently, like it is three wilted daisies. The wind blows and it is warm, carrying the breath of the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu. I can sense her presence, feel her in my visionless world pushing the warm air all over the cemetery and I can hear Carver's gravelly voice over my shoulder.

He tells me a story he wrote about a man who was going around with the most beautiful woman in town. How he had been looking for love in every corner, to the ends of the Earth until he found her. For many years he was happy. Then he found the bottle... and he couldn't decide which he loved best. Couldn't give them both the attention they deserved or demanded. So he slowly spiralled downwards into silence. His wife jokingly called him 'Holy Man', because he never spoke, just kept his head down, glass in hand. His head was down the day she packed her bags and threatened to leave. He rocked back and forwards trying to shape the words in his mouth. 'Will you please be quiet, please' (the title of one of his collections of short stories). His head was down the day she left. He held his whisky like it were a woman, his eyes all full of love.

He speaks to me again. 'That's the way it is when love breaks down like a hunk-o-junk Ford station wagon in a busy shopping centre car park'.

Then there is silence for quite some time and I wonder if he has gone.

'Jezus', he says. 'That's a lot of words for this early in the morning'.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I dream I am in an elevator between first and third floor, alone.  I want to go up but after I press the button the lift jerks and starts to plummet downwards towards the basement.  It is as if it has come off its moorings. 
 It drops slowly, jerkily but I am not too fearful.  I believe I do not have a long distance to travel before the lift hits the ground.  I wait for the impact but instead find myself outside the body of the elevator and now in the lift well hanging onto the elevator cable, which has become a long suspended ladder with loose planks ascending into the darkness ahead. 
 All I can do is climb one rickety step after the other in the hope that eventually I might reach daylight and some way out of this dark lift well.  I cannot think for too long about where I am, or where I am going.  I dare not look back down behind me into what I imagine is a pit of darkness. 
 I am hopeful but fearful all at once.  It is simply a matter of holding on tight and putting one leg in front of the other, one step at a time. 
 Royal blue is the colour of my daughter’s evening gown.  We are in the foyer of a large shopping centre early in the morning before school begins.  Today is the day of the school formal and all the girls assemble in their evening gowns. 
 My daughter has her hair up on her head but she has forgotten the adornment she had bought earlier to put into her hair.  I run from shop to shop trying to find one, but there are none available. 
‘Don’t bother, Mum,’ she says.  ‘It’s alright.’ 
I cannot settle until I find one. 
 I have been through shops like this before in my dreams, and in my waking life.  Bright shops with pristine merchandise laid out in rows.  Bored shopkeepers and sales girls stand around ready to pounce, desperate for a customer, more for something to do, someone to talk to, rather than from any need to make a sale.  Though that would be an advantage. 
 These shopkeepers to whom I pitch my request are all helpful but none can supply me with what I am looking for.  It is a fruitless mission.
I am in Singapore at a conference.  I race from one talk to another and soon feel exhausted.  We have reached the final day.  The conference convenor is up on the podium thanking everyone for a successful event.  She promotes the next conference to follow in two years time.  It is a conference conducted by the International Association of Biography and Autobiography and I recognise many of the European and Australian delegates from previous conferences but this one is marked by the arrival of delegates from within and around Asia.  Women in silk saris and kimonos, men in long white robes. 
 As we sit around in one of the many lounge rooms at the university where the conference is held I notice a wedding take place between a young man and woman.  The ritual of courtship seems elaborate, for the man must first lay claim to his woman by taking possession of her with the authorities in writing.  After he has undertaken this, the man then returns to his wife-to-be and the two prepare together for the more elaborate ceremony.  This man however – a free thinker – has elected to pass up his patriarchal claim to the woman before the ceremony so that the two can be on an equal footing when they marry. 
 I am impressed by this procedure.  There is an actor among the last few delegates.  I recognise him from a play in which he stars at the moment and from his appearance.  I am surprised to see an actor at an academic conference like this.  He shows us how the light that we have seen flashing in the distance is actually a round electric light that can be submerged in the ocean and put onto a flashing rotation, hence the intermittent beam.
 A woman comes along and asks us to take off our clothes in protest against repression in this country.  I hesitate but in the end decide that I should join the protestors.  I sit in front of the bus that carries us to the airport and am now naked, uncomfortably so.  People look at me as though I am strange.  A group of women dressed in saris walk by with blankets so that I might cover myself.
‘Put your clothes on,’ they say.  ‘You are not decent.’  I refuse initially but in time when I notice that I now seem to be the only person naked on the bus, I decide that this derision is not helpful.  I manage to get a dress over my head. 
‘This is a Christian country, is it not?’ I ask a woman nearby and she reassures me that it is not.  It is largely Muslim and Hindu.  I have been confused, I decide.  I had thought that my protest was directed against Christian repression, now I am not so sure.
 We wait in a foyer for our plane to arrive.  It is not due for several hours.  The room is Singapore hot.  I watch the man of the bridal couple escort his wife-to-be on a bicycle up the banister of a staircase, an extraordinary feat.  I tuck one of the other conference delegates into bed, under my blankets because she is tired and I begin to wonder how much longer I will last myself.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hi C:

I had a crazy dream last night and you were in it (as well as lots of other folks I know).  We were all at the beach (it sorta looked like Grand Manan off the coast of New Brunswick) and the water was very cold.  You spent a lot of time carefully raking up the seaweed and beach stones into small piles.  Very slowly.  It was beautiful.

Because I had this dream after finding out you have sarcoidosis, I wondered if this was a cure, or something you were supposed to do. 

In case it was a cure, I didn't want to keep the dream to myself...


Friday, September 17, 2010

Lice Plague
I stand behind my sister at the Queen Anne Dresser in our parent’s bedroom and see the two of us reflected back in the mirror, one tall, one short, one dark, one fair, one beautiful – to my eyes at least – the other plain. 
I take a comb to my sister’s tangled mess of hair.  There are clumps so twisted that the comb refuses to pass through and I must hold onto her hair by the roots before scraping at the unruly mess with the brittle red plastic comb.
My sister winces but I am so intent on the job that I do not hesitate to yank and pull.
There are scattered bits of twig and dry leaves, loose threads and bits of fluff throughout. 
‘Your hair is like the bottom of a wastepaper basket,’ I say.  ‘And there are old nit eggs everywhere.’  I pick at the white bulb of an egg half way along a hair shaft and scrape it off between my finger nail and thumb. 
I imagine at first that these nits are dead, that they died long ago when my sister’s hair was last fumigated, but a winged nit flies out of another clump just as I lift it in readiness to start untangling.
I race down stairs to the hairdressers. 
‘I need some Sm24, I say.  We have a lice plague.’
There are women seated at basins along one wall of the salon.  I recognise the New Zealand writer, Janet Frame, among them.  Janet Frame, as a child, her flame red mop of hair dazzling in the light of a single bulb that swings overhead.  Janet Frame, as she is envisaged in Jane Campion’s film of Frame’s autobiography, An Angel at my Table. 
We are in some sort of bunker and the hairdresser wears a mask on her face and a cap over her head for protection.  The room is full of flying nits that float in and out of the various heads of hair on the children who sit at the basins. 
My scalp starts to itch.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My day began in the middle of the night when, after emerging from a tall building that consisted only of stairs, landings, windows, and walls, I met a friend in an open grassy area that might have been a cemetery had there been any graves. The friend, a poet with whom I have corresponded for several years but have not yet met in person, was much taller than I have imagined him. We walked together until we came to a rectangular marble slab about three feet wide and five feet long. About two-thirds of the slab was covered by an inset rectangle of the same relative dimensions and composed of a duller blackish-grayish material on which appeared the faded letters of some kind of message or text. I tried, but it was impossible to read. The letters were like willow wisps, curling and descending toward a dark stream. In a high voice, half recitation, half singing, my friend told me he had placed the memorial there himself, and that the work had taken him only a few hours. With his head held high and his eyes gazing off into the distance, he explained that the government would never have acted as quickly, that the matter had been discussed in Congress before and would be countless times again, despite the fact that the issue was already resolved. From this I understood that it was a war memorial — not for any war in particular, but for the ancient destructive fact of war itself. Then, in my mind’s eye, there rose up a cry in script on a recently excavated scroll of thin flexible stone flecked with bits of  fossilized dung and straw, a song of grief long since turned to dust and stars and unearthed bones. I looked up. I saw in my friend’s skull the place where his skin and eyes used to be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

... going to a small dealer-gallery in a terrace house in some unnamed city. The dealer was selling a recording of a dull sounding rock group to a client. Enough of that. I went to go out: one floral wall-papered room with a floral-wall-papered door, led to another identically wall-papered room and so on, in series (a Robbe-Grillet/Last Year in Marienbad dream). When I finally got out of there, I looked around and could not recognise any of the streets. One was called Queensway. One led down a hill, but I knew that was not the way to go. I began jogging along laboriously in a street with shops, just keeping pace with two strolling middle-aged women. They found this vaguely disturbing. I needed to go back to my bed-and-breakfast, because it was already an hour after check-out time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dream of Father, October 6, 2009

I dreamed my father was still alive.  He came home & I hugged him!  He was young and virile & he showed the scar on his knee to verify it was him -- just the way Odysseus proved his identity to Telemachus.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The location of my reading series, Cadmium Text, suddenly changes from R&F Paints to an elementary school with tiny desks.  One of the readers cancels, so I ask Scott Helmes if he'll jump in.  He'll do it, but needs a ton of unfindable electronic equipment to display his visual poems.  Half the audience sits in the hallway outside the room, muttering.  There's no food, so I have to trudge around town (!?) looking for pizza while carrying heavy bags of poetry.  It's untenable: everything is too far, too heavy, I know no one but Scott at the reading (whom I've never met, but am collaborating with by mail IRL).

I wake up.  My already tennis-injured back seems worse.  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Although we were eating in a cafeteria, there was a bird in this dream shaped in some ways like a canary and in some ways like a dove. It had blue feathers and orange ringed eyes, and its keeper, when asked when it was a canary, answered "It resembles a canary, and we can call it that, but its real name can't be shared."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Last night, my first night out of hospital, and still sporting a broken leg in a thigh to ankle plaster cast, I dreamed that I had been out shopping in a type of bazaar, a series of stalls along a veranda. I moved below to the basement and realised that the warehouse my husband and I and some unknown others jointly owned was on fire. I knew this because when I went to the entrance the two metal doors were hot to touch and smoke seeped out through the central crack.

I went next door to ask a shopkeeper to call 000, but the shop woman refused.
      'It's too expensive to make such calls.' She did not seem to realise that her shop might also be in danger. I went to another shopkeeper and asked her to ring 000, but she too refused. I was beside myself. Eventually someone else noticed and called the fire brigade. They opened the doors to find a machine had been smouldering for some time. It could explode at any minute. In spite of the possibility passers by came inside the warehouse curious to see what was happening.
     'Get out of here,' I said. 'It's dangerous." But they ignored me. Mostly I worried about the children.

The dream shifted. A woman passing by in a car drew down her window and asked me for directions to a small town in Cornwall. She knew it must be nearby and I offered to show her the way. I climbed into the back seat between two other women who travelled in the same car and realized then that the driver was a man. We chatted as we drove along until the man seemed to go off course, off the main road and pulled the car aside into a cluster of bushes.

I realised then that they were up to no good. The man turned and began to make sexual overtures to the woman on my left. I knew then that he planned some sort of orgy and the women were all in on it, that I would be their victim.

I pleaded with them to let me go. I felt as helplesls as a caged bird. They were pitiless. I could see it in their eyes, in the set of their faces. They were hell bent on their own sadistic pleasures.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We couldn't find her so we went down to the water. I looked through a glass door—suddenly it was winter—where some kind of security guard in a diver's suit was standing on a rock ledge that jutted out into the water. She was lying there, half frozen in the water, her legs and hips frozen and locked into the ice. But she had only been there a few hours—how did this happen? It was clear that she had tried to kill herself. 

Then she started to wake up. I saw that her thumb had broken off and she was being woken up because the security guard was starting to thaw the ice around her. This had to be done carefully and slowly because her flesh could tear or limbs, frozen, could snap off. She was in terrible pain, and started to cry and moan. "My hand! My hand!" she said as she held her hand up to look at what was causing the pain, and she saw that her finger had broken off, leaving the bloody stump of a thumb.