“Children forget. I mean, they don’t forget, but they forget the details. They just don’t know why they have nightmares all the time. It’s very difficult.”
“poetry work was like dreamwork…it went along to things that had been in my family’s occultist tradition, because if they talked about their alchemy, they had work to do. They taught me that dreams told you things you had to do.”
I usually don’t try to describe my dreams to my dream journal.
I’ve been keeping the same record (a single notebook) since June of 2008. It was a rough year, but also a particularly beautiful one. My divorce—or at least the legal end of the thing—was finalized that month; was drinking pretty heavily & eating whatever pill or other thing probably shouldn’t go with drinking heavily a lot; was waking up on the front lawn some when my neighbor came out to let the dogs play & the are-you-okay of her was noticeable but I didn’t pay the empathy of these kinds of exchanges much nevermind. Yes, I’m perfect, I thought, said, dim city stars phasing double-single-shifting under a great diseased magnolia; I watched Venus almost exclusively; jazz around the corner kept me close, & I’d sit understoop in the afternoons with mosquitos & whiskey, Erin played piano behind the near window & I wish I could remember what she played. Lovely & small. Would go on these tears with pages—ripping, cutting up, plastering my empty wooden floor with a pretty dumb fragmented narrative about a man named Leonard & some trees & a girl who did not displace the water in her bathtub.
I thought about the bathtub a lot. And so I started taking a lot of baths & when I was in the bath I found myself reading whatever spiritual work I could find—anything it didn’t matter; this is where I read Gandhi’s …Experiments with the Truth, & somewhere in this I found myself in a silent sort of prayer. I wouldn’t ask things or say things, would just sit in the steam with the window cracked & bright & watch the old pipes & listen for god. Listen to god.
& this is when I was beginning to take walks to the springs to sit under an oakshade & contemplate. & I started a dream journal & I’ve been keeping it ever since. So as I look back, I can see at first I was trying to describe my dreams to the page. It sounds an awful lot like an office friend telling you about a dream. It sounds like I know I sound when I try to tell you a dream. I start to tell it & immediately it sours itself. It isn’t right anymore with the feeling I’d carried over from the sleeping world.
There is that way a dream is yours & yours alone, really.
No one can share your unique conventions. The sensation of flying & the mechanism that takes on—I’ve discovered in asking, for example—sounds drastically distinct from one dream-flyer to the next. But also the emotional impact of an event might be lost & carried into a kind of literal embarrassment (which is incredibly destructive to maintaining the integrity of recall) when perhaps the nightmare was a man in a paper hat driving by, the exhaust of his beat-up truck smelling distinctly of bratwurst—No. This is not frightening. But in the dream (this was one I had as a kid) it was these facts-symbolic that had struck fear. There is no way to scare someone with that story.
It’s nice to kind of chuckle at yourself over the sillyness of a nightmare, but in keeping a record, something is lost in the way one has to qualify the difference between the literal imagery of a dream & its emotive expressions within the dreamer. Descriptions begin to separate out the unity of the dreamed experience & eventually there is little left of the dream itself to recollect; what I end up remembering is the description or the sense I made up about what the description meant to me. This is an obvious thing. It applies to all memory. But in keeping record, it never fit me quite right. I can always go back & describe a dream over & over & over. What I can’t always do is just now wake up from this dream. & so I have wanted to stay with the unique waking moment as a thought about keeping a record of dreams.
An important part of my process has been a practice of remaining very still when waking from a dream
(or else to remain in the energy which I feel in that transitional state: I have been known to leap out of bed and dart across the house, not really as a fully conscious decision, but somehow as a decision taken when in the dream it had been incredibly important to dart away or charge towards, but mainly it is about remaining still) not blink, not shift the direction of the eyes, not scratch an itch, not think at all. Just allow the transition from sleep to waking to take a long, full time of occurring. It’s not a willful paralysis, but a natural feeling of waking and being in the place in body & mind where you are in all of these different places at once & just not disturbing that, becoming aware of a multiple awareness. Too quickly engaging the woken body into its wakeful state is very natural, but it interrupts the multiplicity & fullness of the experience of experiencing a dream, once I’ve woken.
Once it is time to record, there isn’t thinking how to tell the dream.
Sometimes there are sentences. Sometimes there are not-really-words. Sketching visually can happen but this is not something I’ve really learned to trust in my body. I don’t think I’m a very good artist & when I start to draw things I also start engaging my doubts about what is being made, so as a part of dream work it’s something I don’t really do, even though I think it would be a valuable tool in the process. I trust the dark. The pen goes where it goes wherever in the dark. I am not recording what happened. I am staying with the dream & doing with the pen what the dream is doing with me with the pen. I trust the light. The pen can be watched on the page in the early sunlight, it kind of goes the rest of the way of bringing me into this waking way of being from another way of being. Interestingly, this process has left me less (& not more) certain what the differences between the two (or more) really are.
I want to say something about the value of this process. It’s difficult to put into words. On a few occasions I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Rikki Ducornet talking—& if you haven’t read The Complete Butcher’s Tales or Gazelle, they are glorious, stark, expansive, real, nightmares; I am always returning to them in contemplation of narrative’s dimensions in reality—talking about writing “near dream time.” She said this as a reason, it was the end of the thought. Why sit in the morning and write?—“because it’s close to dream time.” This ought be the end of the case, maybe.
I don’t remember recording this dream.
It is one of the ways a dream represents to me. It is one of the more share-able/linear pages of late:
wheels along the highway speeding down a nervous warbles we & we & all
“you are going faster” they say, “I know, than you wish”
& in the prior meadow of Oz-poppies
time it was it was a time it was it was a time
“apple jack pull apple apple jack pull apple”
they singing Indigo in the trees
& earlier still
on the darkening peak, alone
I took photographs
of luminous fingerprints
some antsciente leetol
now! screeech your wrist to try & halt a war
a Flinstone stop.
Curtis says it’s getting dark
& I see that he’s right
it’s very dark now
too dark for all this Marching
How much further in the notsolight?
pulling up by the hand
bodies by the hand Straw rope
arm in arm on arm
bodies by the hand Straw Wrope
of eye & eye in fire on fire
teek a reek a neeki nang
“Now we can see
clear lines of love
sing the marchers in the arm of the ropes
up in balloons
after a hard climb
lined up in a ferris wheel
There you are, across
like we used to do at Reed’s
I love you,