(Under) Mining Your Dreams

[Image: “Good and Evil,” by Daniel Merriam. See the original, more clearly, at Merriam’s own site.]

From whiskey river’s commonplace book (“the pursuit of fantasy“):

Writing in the Dark

It’s not difficult.
Anyway, it’s necessary.

Wait till morning, and you’ll forget.
And who knows if morning will come.

Fumble for the light, and you’ll be
stark awake, but the vision
will be fading, slipping
out of reach.

You must have paper at hand,
a felt-tip pen, ballpoints don’t always flow,
pencil points tend to break. There’s nothing
shameful in that much prudence: those are our tools.

Never mind about crossing your t’s, dotting your i’s–
but take care not to cover
one word with the next. Practice will reveal
how one hand instinctively comes to the aid of the other
to keep each line
clear of the next.

Keep writing in the dark:
a record of the night, or
words that pulled you from depths of unknowing,
words that flew through your mind, strange birds
crying their urgency with human voices,

or opened
as flowers of a tree that blooms
only once in a lifetime:

words that may have the power
to make the sun rise again.

(Denise Levertov [source])


Surely you remember

After they all leave,
I remain alone with the poems,
some poems of mine, some of others.
I prefer poems that others have written.
I remain quiet, and slowly
the knot in my throat dissolves.
I remain.

Sometimes I wish everyone would go away.
Maybe it’s nice, after all, to write poems.
You sit in your room and the walls grow taller.
Colors deepen.
A blue kerchief becomes a deep well.

You wish everyone would go away.
You don’t know what’s the matter with you.
Perhaps you’ll think of something.
Then it all passes, and you are pure crystal.

After that, love.
Narcissus was so much in love with himself.
Only a fool doesn’t understand
he loved the river, too.

You sit alone.
Your heart aches, but
won’t break.
The faded images wash away one by one.
Then the defects.
A sun sets at midnight. You remember
the dark flowers too.

You wish you were dead or alive or
somebody else.
Isn’t there a country you love? A word?
Surely you remember.

Only a fool lets the sun set when it likes.
It always drifts off too early
westward to the islands.

Sun and moon, winter and summer
will come to you,
infinite treasures.

(Dahlia Ravikovitch; translated by Chana Bloch and Ariel Bloch)

Not from whiskey river:

Your house is your larger body. It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? And dreaming, leave the city for grove or hilltop?
Kahlil Gibran


Krysia from the Cooperative Bank in Nowa Ruda had a dream. It was early in the spring of 1969.

She dreamed she heard voices in her left ear. At first it was a woman’s voice that kept on talking and talking, but Krysia couldn’t work out what it was saying. She felt worried in the dream. ‘How am I going to work if someone keeps droning in my ear?’ she said to herself. She thought she might be able to switch the voice off, just like switching off the radio or hanging up the telephone, but she couldn’t do it. The source of the sound lay deep in her ear, somewhere in those small, winding corridors, those labyrinths of moist membrane, in the dark caverns inside her head. She tried sticking her fingers in her ears, she tried covering them with her hands, but she couldn’t stifle it. She felt as if the whole world must be able to hear this noise. Maybe that was it — the voice was making the whole world vibrate. Some sentences kept being repeated — they were grammatically perfect and sounded fine, but they made no sense, they were just imitations of human speech. Krysia was afraid of them. But then she started hearing a different voice in her ear, a man’s voice, clear and pleasant. ‘My name is Amos,’ he said. It was nice to talk to him. He asked about her work, and about her parents’ health, but in fact — or so she imagined — he didn’t really need to, because he knew all about her already. ‘Where are you?’ she asked him hesitantly. ‘In Mariand,’ he replied; she had heard of this region in central Poland. ‘Why can I hear you in my ear?’ she asked. ‘You’re an unusual person,’ said Amos, ‘and I’ve fallen in love with you. I love you.’ Krysia dreamed the same dream three or four more times, always with the same ending.

In the morning she drank her coffee surrounded by piles of bank documents. Outside sleet was falling and immediately melting. The damp penetrated the bank’s centrally heated offices, permeating the overcoats on their pegs, the bank clerks’ imitation leather handbags, their knee boots and even the clients. But on that unusual day Krysia Popoch, head of the bank’s credit division, realized that for the first time in her life she was wholly and unconditionally loved. This discovery was as powerful as a slap in the face. It made her head spin. Her view of the banking hall faded, and all she could hear was silence. Suddenly suffused with this love, Krysia felt like a brand new kettle, filled for the very first time with crystal-clear water. Meanwhile, her coffee had gone cold…

(Olga Tokarczuk, from “House of Day, House of Night“;  translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. I really like this story, an excerpt of a novel published by Granta.)


On the third of May, 1977, LaGrande McGruder drove out onto the Huey P. Long Bridge, dropped two Davis Classics and a gut-strung PDP tournament racket into the Mississippi River, and quit playing tennis forever.

“That was it,” she said. “That was the last goddamn straw.” She heaved a sigh, thinking this must be what it feels like to die, to be through with something that was more trouble than it was worth.

As long as she could remember LaGrande had been playing tennis four or five hours a day whenever it wasn’t raining or she didn’t have a funeral to attend. In her father’s law office was a whole cabinet full of trophies.

After the rackets sank LaGrande dumped a can of brand-new Slazenger tennis balls into the river and stood for a long time watching the cheerful, little, yellow constellation form and re-form in the muddy current.

“Jesus Fucking A Christ,” she said to herself. “Oh, well,” she added, “maybe now I can get my arms to be the same size for the first time in my life.”

(Ellen Gilchrist, from “In the Land of Dreamy Dreams” [source])

Finally, a little animation by Dony Permedi, in which the line between dream and real world ripples, turns translucent, and at last vanishes altogether:

[Video by Dony Permedi. For more information, see this interview with its creator.]

I can safely say, without equivocation: I’ve never even remotely wished I could be a kiwi… until now.

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  1. Oh, I saw the kiwi video a while back. Lovely piece of work. And all these excerpts are great as always, and they leave me wanting to know more.

  2. marta: If you go to the site of the guy who made “Kiwi!,” he’s got a sort of compendium of his more recent animations. Growing by leaps and bounds, as they say. Particularly, the clips featuring the little round-bodied robot astronauts — grafted seamlessly (it seemed to me) into brief, live-action film.

    The “Amos” story reminded me, in different ways, of fiction I’ve read from you and Querulous Squirrel.

  3. I just had a dream about flying last night, being able to dip down and look closer at the scenery and then soaring up and up over the vista of trees. Thanks John…

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