Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I woke restored, from a restless, dream-riddled sleep. Long, discursive, narrative dreams had looped from REM to REM, interspersed with half wakenings: the cat leaping onto the bed, my son's car in the driveway, his footsteps on the stairs. There had even been a dream-within-a-dream: I dreamed, then dreamed I told my husband about the dream. When I woke, the prior day's irritability and peevishness was gone, replaced by a pleasant, blank lightness. Something had rebooted. Some massive data filing and reprocessing had occurred, and the desktop was cleared, the partitions defragmented.

This feels like amnesty, I thought, suddenly, surprised at the word and its implication of forgiving and forgetting. Dreams dissolve like fog, and skitter away like startled animals, elusive, volatile, sublime, leaving only a scent, a vibration, a shred of rapture behind. I was somewhere else, and now I'm here. Adieu, adieu. Like a barely glimpsed past or other life.

Remembered and recounted dreams wither like plucked and pressed flowers. I dreamed a movie producer stood beside our bed and cast us as incestuous lovers. You hid under the bed. She put her finger in my mouth. It was thin and dry. Later, in the dream, I told you about this dream.

Let the beard stroking begin, gentlemen.

My psychoanalytic days are over. I am fully lapsed, proudly apostate. Free association makes poems, doesn't unearth curative truths. Eat my Freud, Shorty as Bart Simpson would say. But dreams aren't complete nonsense. Take for example one of my classics: the walking around knowing I'm going to die dream. A dreadful little number, that. I can trace its origins to the mid 1980's when I was taking care of state prisoners with AIDS. I thought, at first, I was dreaming about my poor patients. Doomed young men. I soon realized that I -- all of us in fact -- was traveling in the same rickety dinghy. Some will pitch off sooner, is all.

It boils, as it often does, down to brain. Headcheese, some might say. That with which we construe the world. That with which we construe the self. The multifarious effluvia of which we can inspect while perched like pretzels on round, black kapok-filled cushions. This brain effluvia -- the whey of the headcheese -- includes, of course, the inspector itself. Everything's headed down the rabbit hole ; it is a vanishing strait; it narrows and narrows until it disappears taking "you" along with it.

Suddenly I remember Mrs. Enman from seventh grade science. She was small but formidable, exacting and sarcastic. She had an atrophic forearm that she held close to her body as she taught. One day she asked me to explain the bubbles in boiling water. What were they ? What caused them ? I hadn't a clue. I was petrified. I had to come up with an answer or face utter annihilation. Did it have something to do with heat ? Which caused things to expand ? OK. I'd take a stab at it.

Uh, the spaces between the water molecules ? That have expanded with the heat ?

She emitted a sharp, dismissive guffaw, more disgust than amusement.

The spaces between the molecules ? You can see the spaces between the molecules ? What amazing eyes you must have !

I sunk into my seat. I wanted to disappear into the spaces between the molecules of my desk.

Forty years later, boiling water for rice, I recalled her question. What does cause those bubbles, anyway ? Did she ever say ? If she did, were my burning ears even capable of hearing ? I stopped and thought. Of course. It's water vapor. Water that has changed state and become a gas. Water whose molecules have become farther apart. What's in the spaces between the water molecules in boiling water's bubbles ? Those spaces I once claimed to see ? Air ? Nothing ? Mrs. Enman, where are you now ? You whose facade cracked only once that year, the day the intercom announced that JFK had been shot. What's between those molecules, Mrs. E. ?

I find, alas, that it's too late to ask.

So is that what I'm looking for, then, as I move in closer and closer to the meadow weeds and grasses ? Some way into the spaces between the molecules of weed ? Or a passage into the quantum interstices of the atoms themselves, that realm of probability, energy, nothingness ? Or into the spaces between my thoughts ? Into the vanishing point ?

Mrs. Enman, you are the Queen of Dis, the queen of an oneiric meadow Underworld, the ruler of the imageless strata below REM.

Wait for me beside the asphodel. You know, that greeny flower ? I'm packing up my lenses and I'll be there soon.

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