Current events, movies I’ve seen, books and articles I’ve read, and conversations I’ve been having all have me thinking about a lot of things. While walking the dog this morning, I had a realization that led to this poem.
Tag Archives: dreams
Today’s poem came from the prompt at the NaPoWriMo website:
Excerpts from the night shift
In one dream we are seated on chairs
in a circle. We pass an object between us
and speak. When it’s my turn I feel
electrified and words pour molten
from my mouth. When it’s my turn
I feel spotlit and my tongue dries
to the roof of my mouth.
In another dream a woman is a surgeon
and a musician and a friend. She checks
my face beneath the cold pack and says
the swelling is almost gone so I am free
to leave as well. I still feel unsteady
but someone else is driving. Already I can
breathe more easily.
In case anyone was wondering, I haven’t died or finally been committed to an asylum (though I expect both in due time.) Rather, I’ve been completely immersed in a wonderful manuscript project with a lovely client who happens to be an art historian. That has meant end notes, figures, captions, appendices, an index, and Chicago’s 16th Edition – an editor’s dream job!
For years I’ve told told everyone (myself included) that editing uses the same parts of the brain as writing, so when I’m working on an editing project I’m not able to write. I now realize that isn’t true. Although there’s a certain degree of overlap, editing uses a good deal more left-brain function than writing, which relies primarily on right-brain operations.
The upshot of this discovery is that I can no longer use work (editing) as an excuse not to work (writing). It’s surprising how liberating that feels.
I woke this morning from sound sleep
and poetry – no words remained
in mind, only the clear knowledge
I had shaped verse as I went about
the business of the dream.
So today I wrote again
after too many weeks of letting life
and other work take up all
available space and time and energy –
but no more.
I found this while flipping back through my journal. It seemed particularly apt for All Saints Day/The Day of the Dead, when people of various cultures celebrate the blessed memory of those who have gone before.
Dream life of the dead
what dreams dog the dead
in their eternal sleep?
for even those cut off
by dismembering violence
rest in the end
the dead are not uneasy
but in the imagination of the living
whose envy cannot bear
the thought of such abiding
if the dead stir, they merely telegraph
their dreams in cryptic twitches
and inscrutable murmurs, as sleeping
dogs before the hearth
of a winter’s night
This was inspired by a dream I had last week. I woke to my alarm in the middle of the dream, and its disturbed feeling stayed with me until I had time to sit down and write about it. As I recorded the dream, I saw patterns that very nearly reversed my initial perceptions, so that I ended up feeling very positive about it. I guess maybe I’m one of those irritating glass-half-full people.
The Best Medicine
A technician arrives to put in
the IV. Cancer, the doctors say.
Five tubes of thick, red poison
wait in a tray. The rubber strap snaps
around my upper arm; cool fingertips press
the crook of my elbow, my wrist,
the back of my hand. I look away, cold
with fear and anger. The bee sting of entry
barely registers, but slashing pain seconds later draws
unwilling sound from my throat. The tech pulls
the needle, bandages purpling flesh, murmurs
apology, avoids my eyes. She puts
her arms around me and I see
she is crying.
I apologize for my absence; a family health issue in a neighboring state has required a great deal of my time the last couple weeks. I’ve been writing, though not as much as I would have liked, but haven’t caught up enough to post anything. Until now, that is. So in a feeble attempt to atone somewhat for this lack of activity, I hereby offer a few silly bits from my journal.
* * *
(inspired by the prompt “favor”)
The favor of your presence
is required at a dinner to honor
Her Majesty Claire,
Queen of Denial.
Formal attire expected; gifts
are not optional.
* * *
(inspired by the prompt “evidence”)
All evidence to the contrary,
I am not the one
who stole your bagel.
Those are not crumbs on my
lapel; I suffer from an unfortunate
* * *
(inspired by a dream)
Too old to be a blushing bride
(and, let’s face it, a bit
too experienced) she thought
something in cream would be tasteful
without pretension. Then she spied
the pink linen two-piece: skirt just
at the knees, jacket edged with elegant
black scrollwork. Beside it hung
a pink shell of silk the barest
tint more pale.
And the shoes! low leather
pumps in matching pink, embroidered
at the collar with that intricate
black motif. It was perfect, warm
with a touch of worldliness.
She wondered how it had ended
up in her closet.
Dream of the Black Dog
the black dog and I walk
side by side in the road
he likes the silver in my hair
I protest but he flings
his hindquarters in the air and walks
upside down on his forepaws
I laugh and he staggers
but I catch him
together we waltz down the street
in a yin/yang circus act
The black dog can represent many things: faithful companionship, the patient presence of depression, the masculine aspect of the self (animus), instincts and animal urges, even death. In this dream it was my soul mate and it made me laugh. (Which doesn’t rule out the other meanings, incidentally.)
Today, the kids and I watched The Wizard of Oz at the local historic movie palace. It’s amazing the details you can see on the big screen, things that go unnoticed when the film is viewed on television. It used to be broadcast on TV every year when I was growing up, and my family always watched it. Today it dawned on me that I was ten years old before I realized that the scenes in Oz are in color, because we didn’t have a color TV until I was ten.
As a child, the tornado that sends Dorothy to Oz was unspeakably terrifying because tornadoes regularly cut swaths of death and destruction through my community. I spent an obscene number of hours huddled under a table in the southwest corner of our basement, waiting for the storm to rip our house from its foundations. For most of my childhood and into early adulthood, tornadoes were powerful and recurring images in my dreams, and they always looked like that horrible, snaky cyclone in the Wizard of Oz. I have to admit that seeing it on the big screen today was a bit unnerving, even now.
I never actually read the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz until a few years ago, when I read it to my own children. (We have now read all but three of the 14 Oz novels L. Frank Baum penned.) When I was in fourth grade, my teacher went on maternity leave in the middle of the year and was replaced by a sub who read Tik-Tok of Oz aloud to us after lunch every day. The following year, I received Ozma of Oz as a Christmas present. It remains to this day my very favorite Oz book.
I never realized how progressive Baum’s vision was until I began reading the books to my children. He wrote empowered female characters who stand up for what is right, lead armies and expeditions, and rule nations. He imagined a world in which animals and non-biological entities are people, too. He created a place in which common sense and quick wit hold their own with magic, sometimes even trumping it. And he envisioned a land in which good and evil aren’t entirely rigid concepts – good people can make poor decisions or do things that harm others, and evil people can have a change of heart.
I believe it is this latter quality, this fundamental belief that things are not always what they appear to be and that change is always possible and nearly always happens, that has inspired others to retell the stories of Oz. From The Wiz to Wicked to Tin Man, Baum’s Oz has been reenvisioned in unexpected ways that remain surprisingly true to the original source material. Oz has become a kind of dreamscape, in which familiar images reveal new layers of meaning to successive generations of readers and writers. I think Mr. Baum would be pleased.
I haven’t always liked tarot. For a time, I viewed it as a terrifying incarnation of evil. My understanding of many things changed as I aged, and I eventually reached a point where I stopped avoiding tarot with superstitious fervor. I was no longer philosophically opposed to it, but I wasn’t much interested in it either.
I’ve long been a fan of classic monster movies, so when I came across Kipling West’s Halloween Tarot, with its cartoon clarity, bright colors, and iconic monsters, I was smitten. Anything that so lovingly featured my old friends Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, the Bride, and the Mummy was worth a second look. The images are populated with costumed trick-or-treaters, jack-o-lanterns, friendly ghosts, and black cats. I couldn’t resist! The Halloween Tarot became my first deck and remains one of my favorites.
Now that I realized tarot didn’t have to be mystical or sinister or take itself so seriously, I was intrigued. I found all sorts of fun and fanciful decks, from baseball to Harry Potter to Alice in Wonderland. I found decks whose images could be hanging in a museum and decks whose art could be featured on Saturday morning cartoons. Who knew there was so much beauty and variety in a bunch of cards?
I have come to enjoy tarot like I do art, film, literature, music, dreams. I appreciate the layers of meaning such things have, the way they reflect life back to me, the way my soul sometimes resonates with them. I don’t believe tarot has mystical powers, but I know it sometimes makes me smile or gives me pause. And that, to me, is reason enough to like it.
the surface distrusts the dark judge
Lord of wealth and all who fancy themselves
master of the riches they hold, disregarding
its weight, the way it presses
into his service
treasure is drawn to its master and takes with it
all whose grasp does not loosen
glitter-blind, they do not recognize the hungry shades
they have become even while their hearts beat
still in sunlight
Dis scarcely notices: beside the pale, eternal denizens of his realm
daylit lives are vague and spurious
mis-remembered dreams of pain and pleasure
dragged by greed, borne by death
he is the earth into which they sink
he is the dust to which they return
(Apologies to those who were expecting underwear to the be topic of this post.)