Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sometimes the muses are both kind and strange


I have been invited
Like the courtier in the powdered wig,
Like a dignitary, profile of a mountain.
I fear to write the word
Like a chicken
Laying her last egg
Before laying out her neck.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I saw this poem in a dream--nearly as I can remember as it is now. The dream itself is strange.

I had to go somewhere about two hours away on Saturday--leaving at about 9:30. In my dream of Saturday morning my mother was here and going with me and she had to go to Lexington on Saturday morning BEFORE we left. So she and I and a friend of my husband's (on my mind because he hadn't returned a phone call--common with him--and my husband and I had been discussing it the night before) went to Lexington at 8:30. Lexington is about 30 minutes away from me because there is no direct way to get there--even though the distance is not that great.
We go to this house and family business and no one is there.

Me: Didn't you tell them you were coming?
Mother: Well, I thought they'd be here.
Me: You thought they'd be open at 8:30 in the morning?
Mother: I knew they'd open for me.
Me: And why did we have to do this first. Didn't you realize we could have gone through Lexington on our way out of town.
Mother: But I need it before I get ready. Oh, the door's open. I'll just get what I need and leave a note.

So we go in (???) and she's looking for this "thing" and I glance at the husband's desk and there's this poem on it. In the dream I knew he was a poet, but I expected him to be of the slightly sentimental variety and I was startled by this poem as it did not seem like something he would write. I can't think of any poet I've met who didn't write poetry that fundamentally seemed like them. Even April's frustratingly language rich poems seem like April, and certainly John Ash and Wayne Koestenbaum wrote poems I expected from comfortable gay men living in New York. Even Charles Simic, a far more interesting poet to me, still writes poems that do not surprise me in coming from him.

So I wake up and think, "I must get that poem on paper. That's not his poem, that's MY poem." There was a slightly different version that I remembered in that glorious moment after waking--or I think I do--memory, especially of dreams becomes more and more what you remember and less and less of what they might really have been in the moment of dreaming. Like Coleridge, interrupted, I struggled to remember precisely what I read on that page, and what was so clear on the second after waking faded with each attempt to re-see it, but, this is, I think, very close to the gist. And if any further proof is needed that my subconscious wrote this poem, I had no idea what it meant until I got it on the page.

Because I was going to a reunion on Saturday. A reunion I was dreading for many different reasons that I cannot, even now fully articulate. Also, I have not written any poetry for some time and had begun to believe that I might never write another one that I liked. I know it's an obtuse poem, but I also feel in my gut that it is good and not one of those things (like plots of dreams I have tried to recapture) that was only good in the dream and do not hold together on waking.

1 comment:

Matt said...

This happened to me last week, too! I wrote this thing that was sort of a summary of a dream, because when I woke up, the words just started composing themselves in my head, and I knew that I would kick myself if I didn't get up and write it, no matter how cold it was in my room, or how crusty my eyes felt.

Yes. Yes yes.