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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Gates

It is no mean achievement to pass on to another something of a strange nature that has stirred in one's own soul.
--Synesius of Cyrene

folk devil fuseli

Trying to describe dreams fall apart like cotton candy in the rain never stops.

native american I'm guiding a flying whale four days out to sea by his dorsal fin. His body's encrusted with art, the snout an abalone frown. Grunts smelling of dead seals and cedarwood; the underbelly a map of oil wells, dead pirates, and red sores blinking where the last of the coelocanths home. Fade to white, queer hours throwing in religious blues. We’re descending to I never see the sea.

Baudelaire said To dream greatly is not a gift given to all men. I used to carry this quote around in my pocket, pull it out when I C'd a test or lost a job. There was something I could do, even if it meant nursing awful sleeping habits, losing what others thought was my time. 

When I described them, some would say Nuh-uh. You made that up, meaning in my waking hours I had engineered them. This betrayed their own fascination by dreams, the questioning of the authenticity of my night. Nobody really talks much about dreams anymore--the TV and the kids and the workload and the weed and pills have silenced them for nearly everyone over 18--but in these reactions I saw vestiges of the reverence they once brought to statesmen, beggars, and the rest of the Old dead; still alive in dormancy today. 

Antarctica’s balmy and totally out of time. While my statisticians count bricks in the cliffs of Extremist Point, questions are asked about the penguin husks and seals dashed on the rocks. So dead in a way I know this has to be the safest place on earth. Evidence suggests a Mongol hoard departed. Emily and I assume the roles of Edwardian caretakers who swim the continent surveying mountains of marble and castles made of cliffs. Higher than the sky did not exist. One war camel remains, says 5 billion warriors are returning to stay. My statisticians will be outnumbered. One day we must swim forever's never longer than a solar day. Antarctica, you will be interesting.

northern lights alaska

After all this time, dreams remain only slightly less mysterious than the surface of Jupiter or the Mariana Trench. The lack of scientific consensus is variegated as Galen-time views of anatomy, a hodgepodge of ideas whimsical as Archimboldo’s fantasies. Scientists believe them to be a utilitarian activity intended to keep the brain active during sleep. Or a very vital process by which new associations are formed--a nightly repiecing of the day’s broken mirror. A chance to go insane in safety for a time. Reactive if you are fearful, prophetic if you have digested properly, or all byproduct--hot dog filler left over from the mind's digestion of information.

I have been disappointed by many such psychiatrists who share this last view; all the more so because their belief has waylaid me from time to time. Yet I suspect that the hot-dog-filler theory makes sense to these therapists because so many people must recount to them the tedium of dreams dreamt without narrative form, possibly indicative of lives lived accordingly. 


For their fantastic reputation among writers and pharaohs, most people find themselves opening e-mails and visiting the dentist all too often in the night. Like some vacations, dreams are never as great as they promise to be; like others, they are too wild to be reconciled or believed. Artifacts for a cabinet, except what sick grandmother wants the curios moldering in your id?

Most have a construct for their sexual errata. Virgin formations that didn’t work out. Venereal retractions, an antechamber you can’t escape with seizures unauthorized and boarding gates in the foreplay. All is one white Rubix cube inside another, loaded with dials and knobs and tracks, the tiles tight as Incan temples. In this one, Old Master Venuses are alive on the floor, shining calves glazed like doughnuts or a heap of autumn squash. They smoke and bloom like a pileup of exotic cars, tits covered in advertising decals, infrared satellite maps, neon erogenous zones, a cathedral of flesh in a shower of sparkling oil. Crystal frogs leap from soft rock to porcelain basin in the pink profuding Amazon. Reflecting pools fill with the urine of cherubim where the lily pads drift, part cabinet of curiosity, part purple orgy of starfish, urchin, and anemone. I can't consummate, but I know I ejaculate chocolate. 

Indulge my dissection: The dials and tracks come from the carnival's mechanical horse races. The white Rubix cube is the tiled bathroom of my first sexual realization (though, curiously, Bangles' singer Susanna Hoff is missing). The Venuses are Titian's, Wtewael's, Leighton's, the harems of Delacroix and Ingres, plus the scent of adolescent chlorine. The advertising decals come from Indy car race accidents I've seen; how indistinguishable colliding bodies can be!  The satellite maps and infrared imagery because there is nothing more nude than body heat and skeletons and attempts to predict the weather. The frogs come from the religious conventions of my youth where little fountains were erected, meant to conjure Eden. The chocolate because it is so popular.

W. Somerset Maugham observed There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror. I don't know if this applies to the sexual life of dreams, nor if it applies to sex at all anymore, porn being the new rock n' roll. Then I think of supervisors I have known, all the stress they must suffer having someone still stuck on the meaning of dreams in their employ; trolling the Internet for the dream logs of their perverted drones; squawking among themselves on their way toward some kind of decision on what do we do?
People on pedestals are sprayed with semen and the mobs below dance in the rain of the sex. On the altar of a jungle pyramid, a monster-man sits on skin wheels that once were his legs, a chair of flesh for thronging mouths, head moving slowly as a parade balloon. From his waist, the organ strikes like a chinese yo-yo blasting gallons of come, recoiling, flaring, recoiling, soaking the women on pedestals who dance in the rain of his sex. Ha ha ha, he shouts, I give you LIFE! waving to the crowd, turning slowly to drench the women on pedestals who dance in the rain of his sex. In the city below, the men are chased by tigers on terraced rice slopes, playing dead, eaten alive. It is clear that God has shined upon this city.

Bunga bunga, I call this mess, a vision I saw at 17 in the guise of a woman I named Spilania Spacegirl, time traveler in the year 2369. Looking back, it is so easy to see that I was 17. It was the last dream selected for this collection. It was the dream of which I was most proud at 17. Spilania has never returned.

The hardworking folks of our country fall asleep in seven minutes on average. But pillpoppers, you know the long-awaited feeling--after the blitz in some eggshell sleep with the sunlight coming down like amniotic apricots, how red blackness begins to separate. Ambient noise solidifies, and for a brief moment the body feels akin to a frying egg changing its substance. After that you've got 30 seconds max.

Nagano, 1985: The dream drips at the edges, ink down the page. I’m in the hot springs with Edie Brickell and Vince  Lombardi conducting my very own talk show. Snow and the dragonflies circle the ferns—a million shades of $50 bills. 

Nocturnal earthquakes make a raging temple of the sea. We are seen by millions each evening against a very fake skyline. But shockingly little graphic violence ensues. So the city cancels us and looms anew, bright as sneakers propelling human life through cloud. The moon is not our spotlight now. Up above the airbus flies like a white toy. What I am is whatever you say. Tonight, a very special guest is coming into time.

This dream I call Air. It is everything no one says it is.

A common lament concerns the self-indulgence of those who dream bravely, indiscriminately, then talk about it. Ordinarily, I would chalk this up to something one might call dream envy, but dreaming is too clandestine a skill to be the object of others' jealousy. Does anyone envy your impeccable molars? Why take up my time with your impotent fantasies? they ask. What are you contributing to society really? (Apparently, the notion that dreams are built for new associations is lost on those who have difficulty making them. Or those who have not noticed that a sleepless society is an unimaginative basketcase incapable of solving its problems.) I have seen such accusations crush some idealistic 30-year-old grad-school students still grasping for a place in life they cannot or do not intend to find. Few end well. We all are pirates.

I could never fully take pride in my own self-indulgence. My working-class roots prevented me. When people asked if I was a drug addict because I slept til 3 pm, I took the first of eight bad jobs to spite them and to afford huge meals of goose and Japanese serigraphs. Each had an Editor more visceral than the last, all of whom hated my clothing and scowls. But I hated their pomp and their smiles. Which put my mind at ease that wherever I set sail, I had earned it.

This is Oxygen Island. And my eyes collide so hard with everything around. At the back of the forest—cliffs under wallpaper, acts of evolution in the leaves. Time traveled through me like ocean through baleen. A full moon moved a dancing tornado of light on the waves. On top of the hill, a tree scrimshawed with hieroglyphs spun on its trunk.  Wind through its codes filled the music with air, turned like a music box drum, standing upright, spinning, spinning. Under my kimono, tattoos clashed. And all maps began drifting toward mystery.

The scrimshaw tree for me has become God--a lost folly twirling somewhere to make me smile. It clearly resembles Kubrick's monolith from 2001, its Treeness true of Newton, Buddha, Joan of Arc. (How many people have had mind, soul, or heart awakened under trees!) But there comes a kind of stress with such dreams. To outdo oneself takes years, and the greatest impression will only be made upon oneself. The onanism is rampant. Far from being an exclusively cognitive affair, one given to parlor talk and important scientific meetings that yield money and prestige, dreaming is, the closer one looks, more akin to other processes we typically think of as bodily--a secretion, part emotional, part carnal, part sweat discharging pretty toxins.

Closing time at the Italian market. The sign says SKATES FOR SALE, meaning rays—phantom fish—but inside there are pyramids of tomato sauce Imported Today. Late summer shadows are all I remember, artichokes in oil. A shadowy corner with workers waiting to leave. No skates in the case. Put away for the night. It smells like petty crime and silence now. Outside in the shadows, an alarm is sounding out.

Sea life left on beds of ice recur in my dreams. Like a second scent emitted by the sleep. Killer whale pups on a dock, oysters behind a glass display case. I never get to taste them. Just as well. One does not want a sense of finality from dreams. Either the thrill of consummation to come or the hope of something better than the grisly fate before you is almost always preferable to the actual event. Teasing is worse than torture. Lingerie is sexier than flesh. Mystery better than explication. As in life, as in dreams.

A salamander's in shock on the glass in my leaves, his tail’s each patient flick clocking the spread of the trees. 

With swipes of emerald, lemon, and black, his pendulum paints up my darkness and tells the future with a quick mimic of the hours that have passed me by before. A still beat builds in my gut’s wet crock, measuring the discord of hungers hungering for harmony—a cosmic alignment of sleep, flesh, and food. He quickens the frantic sway, a mock smile affixed to his lips, as if to say the time he keeps really is a lit wick waiting to ignite anticipations. Or is it a grimace wound by his tail, its stock of teeth hemmed by a bitter lip, confused beyond hope of understanding the barrier’s trick of sealing me from what it has revealed? From a red velvet chair before the hyaline lock, every organ awaits another's ease, just moments away--ticking seconds off the bells that never chime when I am here to tock.

Suggestion is revelation. That is one view anyway--the view of an aging generation which grew up watching Hitchcock and saw in tension something more dramatic than explosion. The 13-Days Generation. There is an alternative, more appropriate for our time and the future, which will be a hot world of fucking, murder, and tears set against complex architecture without heart or memory. Rigorously ethical. United. Fierce. And full of fiends. Dreams that come without family--clear, naked, brutal, and beautiful as the organisms spawning in your blood right now. Increasingly, we get what we want--all of it but the resolution. Torture is torture. Flesh is flesh. Mystery is a mystery. It is what it is is a popular phrase.

We call this a nightmare—the face of death and pain as seen by those most unprepared. Dreams whose claws come for you alone and make no bones about it.

Bombshells. Big fake sky. Mathematically alive, I’m all prosthetics in the human sand. Caesar’s turned arena to marina, the sky to a magenta photochrome. Eyes are beating down like 60,000 suns, round as my theater where senators caress the circumference of their girth and servants sussurate behind the sinning sculpture; slavering concubines, glabrous pudendas. I memorized passcodes while serving as their footstools. I convinced few. I questioned nothing. My morality was an abscess on the genitals of Empire. And here’s my Coliseum, engineered with the philosophy of billiard tables—pegged with coral totems and salt mounds, weird mangroves imprisoning Christians and Gauls, tiny tsunamis stirred by the jeers, and gavials hauled in for the end. See the hyped axe, the leopard's diamond jaw, the scorpion bouquet. There’s nothing you can’t become through someone else. 

I won’t be broken with a thousand blows. But thumbs keep pointing my way down. Jesus please, make gladiators gladiolas.

Given how like our lives dreams are, it is strange how death is so eludable within them. I call this dream Gerome after its inspirer.

My first nightmare came after looking at the shadow of a stuffed bat that hung in my bedroom when I was five. I was racing away from an erupting volcano. I came to respect bats and fear volcanoes very quickly. Ever since, natural disasters of all types have appeared whenever life has begun to spin out of control. This is common. Tornadoes are always on the horizon, often in teams, far off and glowing white against black skies. Tornadoes occur most frequently in the summer when the ambient noise of air conditioners conspires to supply a soundtrack that can stir them into life. In Louisiana, after Katrina, one of them came to me.

So many silver linings can only mean one thing. The sky began to ring around itself. Like an I-V bag hanging low, a cloud with purple-lightning veins, this jellied biomass, drizzling intestines like a man-o-war, swept over me like a raging surgery. In the ditch I saw up the throat of its spotlight, into the blue sky behind it all.

I keep a running list of the tsunamis I have survived as well, some of them crisp, amber, and thin; others deep jade and opal; some freezing at sunset into purple--teal condos with hot-pink windows and palms on the roof in the center of town; a select few the gray brown--black monsters that swallow archipelagoes whole. Some say tsunamis represent the feeling of being overwhelmed. This is most likely true, though I've come to believe they may also represent our submission to the sublime.

A sheet of glass thinner than apartment walls, the spritz of mist upon Colocosia, white as wine come Carolina mornings.

To see that wave, you'd be sure I was liberated, not overwhelmed. Dream meanings vary from human to human, but that never keeps the supply of dream dictionaries coming at full speed with practical, unsatisfactory answers. Though seemingly full of sensible explanations on dream interpretation, they almost never jive with reality—much like official reports of U.S. wars. This is because they purport to represent only the meaning of “true”, or prophetic, dreams, as if those that reflect on your days’ and nights’ desires mean nothing.

One such dictionary explains that dreams of spiders indicate a feeling of being an outsider, a desire to remain an outsider, a powerful force of protection, the presence of a dominant female figure in your life, or the sense that you are trapped in an unfulfilling relationship. Another claimes that they represent money on its way. Tarantulas specifically mean that a Doctor’s Checkup is in order. All reasonable I suppofe, but One goes so far as to afferte that dream Spiders “affift in the flow of prana or kundalini"--the life force. Their frequente Blackness is a good Thinge.

The Skye's never rufted by Cloudes, but Its blue Dome is rubbed by Hillsides white with Milke Pondes, Lilie Fields growing by the favoure of our Lord. The Air is stille. Nothing at all woulde move upon thefe Slopes if not for the Breezes stirred by little Winges pafted on the backs of iridefcent Blowflies that bafk like Mother of Pearle in the rays of the Sunne. I am the only Manne, drifting in the deepeft, brighteft fumes of Sleepe, Lungs suffocating under the silent Fire. Still I cannot go unmoved when a little ruftling, magnified by the Silence, comes from the Distance to shatter my Repofe. 

Hearte gagges--I'm not alone. Poifon Arrows race, Handes grope as the Sunne burns, losing maffive, invifible Partes of itfelf! The ruftling ripples the Milke, quakes Flowers in a Traile from Stemme to Petal so I underftand that Something beneathe them muft be skulking the Grounde to caufe their unreft in suche wife, and when the Leaves beginne to flutter near My Arm I rife. Something large and dark creeps through openings in the Leaves, silente as the Atmofphere and slowe as the Air and appearing to move on many Leggs. I part the Plantes, tearing the white with a Gashe of green. 

A terrific Spider of pure blacke, two feet long and trailing a monkey's Tail on its Abdomen paufes to see the Sunne revealed and covered againe as the Leaves move backe into place and a Screame echoes in Paradife.

I call this dream Dampier. Given that arachnophobia is commonly listed as one of humanity's top-10 universal fears, one would think more dream dictionaries would equate spiders with fear before jumping to Arachne, queen weaver of the ancient Mediterranean. The latest studies of fear tell us that arachnophobia is a 30,000+ year-old phenomena ingrained in humans to warn us against their venomousness. Of course, that doesn’t fit with archetypes. Nor can it account for the love of 16th-Century travelogues in which my dream is framed. And certainly it can’t address the peculiar fear frozen in me when a cousin leapt out with one of those novelty tarantulas taxidermied in Arizona and encased in glass one night when I was six in Maine. I remember only enormous hairiness and running up the stairs. The spider is more than a mother and a wife. It is more than a warning against poison.  It is a cousin with a grin. It is cruelty with a taile.

In a stained glass bathroom, the toilet Listerine refuses my sacrifice, coughing one great loaf onto the sink, another into the bathtub; and in its mouth, the building’s Ebola fesses up a splinter pile, a tuna steak, still beating, and an eight-legged shadow of black yarn waiting in its web of whirlpools to eat my soul.

Naturally, one might question whether any dream involving toilets should not automatically be qualified as a nightmare, spider at the bottom or no.

So much time did I spend obsessing over the tarantula as a youth that she has now transformed for me into a kind of Miltonian devil, a sympathetic predator, hideous by birth, misunderstood. These days I feed their insatiable vaginal jaws and hide them along the baseboards from angry mobs at jazz rodeos. That is progress of some type.

Nightmares come in three points of view: Observer, Perpetrator, Victim. Some say that your proximity to the crime determines your implication. But I believe that any side of the crime is something to dread. Of spiders, I was only an observer. But in my Jorn van der Sloot dream, I am the perp.

Late at night, past imperial fountains to the house, I take Miss X, kill her (hanging by doorknob), and link the murder to suicide. Leaving again, I CANNOT be seen, but an old supervisor passes in the light you find come summer campuses or the Verona of Shakespeare. Back to the fountains--apex of the universe and an excellent alibi. Firework light, soft water, synchronized swimmers, deep as the polar bear pool at the zoo. Astronomers to the side, Starr Jones doing gymnastics, young lovers in love, Boucher’s Venus herself in full bloom. 

Suddenly Colombo shows up! I answer questions with reasonable suggestions, but I'm the center of it all, hiding in half light, and sleeping on lawns, the world aught but one panopticon where prison is the Babel tower lit up purple in the distance--this electric ziggurat veined with tracer lights and ambuli. One wrong move and Colombo has one more thing. I cannot answer.

That I am guilty. An elaborate storyline for what is essentially a dream warning of the day I will be caught blowing off work—killing time; that people are watching. Buried in it, eons of misogyny you could carbon date to a childhood dressed up like Hollywood in sensational mystery and living in a cloud of Mink hairspray.

Some find it easy to dismiss their most exhilarating dreams. This could be attributed to any number of reasons in bellaphobic America. Gore and fear are less easy to dismiss than beauty in the same way that Dante's Paradiso is rarely mentioned in the same sentence as the Inferno. Most Americans of a pre-Reagan Judeo-Christian background know their Hell far more intimately than their Heaven (since then, everyone has assumed they are heaven-bound with all their riches, needles’ eye be damned. The fervor may be Anglo-Saxon, but the materialism is ancient Egyptian). I have for years been trying to go against the grain. But when my father first warned me about demon possession, I too recognized the special thrill of horror that images of paradise find hard to rival. I became convinced that I was due to be possessed. On several nights, I almost was. The victim.


Aneurysms of jazz from the big top arising. Featureless sounds of the passing parade. I’m tied to luxurious chairs. Hotel bible in midair catches light through the drapery wave—filtered doves, dust motes in the halo blade. Featureless sounds. The passing parade. A face unfolds in a Chinese fan upon a passing float outside. Seasonal breezes smelling of fish marketeers. Iron bridge over iron bridge. Camellias. Electricity. The movie stars of India billboarding windowside. Suddenly, I see BOB come out of the walls. As he arranges beetles on the wall, I see my sisters shrink in the terrarium, transform to white lions. Iron bridge over iron bridge. Hotel bible in midair. I’m tied to luxurious chairs. My sisters move in time with BOB’s beetle-chess game. Animal marionettes. Featureless sounds. The passing parade.

If you're like me, the idea of having your dreamspace invaded sounds like the talk of overeducated psychologists who’ve been to the Amazon 3 trips too many. But not long after I saw David Lynch's Twin Peaks for the first time (I was 10), I sensed that something awful had crept into my life and taken hold.  Specifically, it was the first episode of the second season. (How strange to think a television show interjected by corporate desperation could affect one this way!) The villain BOB murders someone in a train car in the woods. There I was with my head half-buried behind my mother's back, watching the gnashing of teeth and the blood and BOB’s howl. The fear stayed with me 15 years as BOB appeared in many guises—an unexpected guest on Hollywood squares, a man in a rocking chair in the shadows, a friend I hadn’t spoken to in three years. One day at 30, I watched Twin Peaks again and realized BOB was behind me. It was the first time I felt old.

Thus most of our nightmares play as little more than stylized horror films that speak to our fear, witnessed, felt, or imposed. But there are others, the more recherch√© horrors, the psychological equivalent of tranny websites, the ones in which bears cannibalize one another while 69ing on the banks of a salmon-loaded wilderness--the types of nightmares you do not write about--too much. Glandular nightmares in a glandular world.  Just chalk it up to having seen some photos of land-mine victims on the web after watching nature programs about Alaska and pretend it does not mean that the cigarettes are eating you alive. The ones you ignore at your own peril for your own good.  Even in this day and age, some things--bears cannibalizing one another while 69ing in the wilderness--are beyond the pale. 

Sex terrorists take over downtown commando square, its screens filled with mandatory daily torture films. In one, a woman's brain is scrubbed with a toothbrush; in another, Wes Craven is buried under 100,000 tons of jello and the invisible Archvillains commentate how his every bone is slowly crushed, his organs suffused til nothing but gelatin. We are being replaced it is clear--the bones of other beings made "our own". I say Fuck This but the sex terrorists find me, put me up at the slave market in a back alley of disappearing stairs. Women pick and choose like a dodgeball game til finally I arrive in a knickknack shop and fall into the remarkable labia of Justine Joli. Some horror ends swell.

This may track the general state of my mind better than any other--the adult nightmare, combining all three perspectives of fear. More importantly, escape is effortlessly achieved, divine, and an act of play. It's a resurrection, a birth on the lotus.

The more insane the world becomes, the less we are afraid of it. Though we may flinch at first, though anxiety and fear hold us hostage, it is easier than ever to escape (How sweet not to be 16). I find it easier and easier to let the oxytocin garden grow, even as a slave, and so I am returned unto the vulvas of miracles. It is this state of mind that leads one to understand why eternal life is really the hell of the myopic.

Steep hill and the '36 Cadillac Jonckheere is sloping backward at the speed of glass,
rainwater leveling in the floor. A tiny, shiny robot camera, like a flying VCR, approaches me and films the scene, then sails away back to the high school where I belong.

This dream only seems like a nightmare. It is a dream of unnerving truth. Horror is not realized, only anxiety and dread. I woke up once--a face I know, a face I love had jilted me overnight, and at 4 p.m. that day I started crying. At this point you may be having dreams so literal, so obvious, so true, that it is the waking self that is exposed irrational. In the dream, my desired wrote a letter saying, essentially, It takes two to tango. I woke up terribly depressed fighting for a loophole with the dream—This dream only represents what you FEAR she thinks, not necessarily what she actually thinks. And for that matter, her letter is only a statement of fact, not a flat-out denial. My waking reason fell apart. I had flipped selves. Freud might not need to analyze my dreams. They are sometimes my exoskeleton, the voice of reason. Soon after in the waking world, the woman disappeared. But her memory, zombified, still wanders through my every day.

After such dreams, returning to the good old flood of pretty nothing seems ideal.

Thrace to star, China to port. Fizzing seas on pinewood planks. I'm dressed in Versace, smelling of cedarwood, vapid, who cares? My earth is a Faberge egg, presented to whom I am sailing to find.

Old Europe is long past due another renaissance I find each night.

The snow fell slowly on our gingerbread town, sprinkled the steps of the courthouse and turned to sugar. Wild deer would bat an eyelash through winter trees swelling with the shadows. As the molten ice of evening grows, your fingers close the exits of perspective.

My Xmas lust for miniature architecture and nature love me I love you.

Three weeks of sky confused by its own hemorrhage and the warplanes dance again, revealing stories of pride and love in their opera of engine drones. Spelling symbols with their swandives. Cast on curved walls and watched from odd angles. As the moon appears from nothing in a theater of seas: robin's egg, sapphire, and midnight. What do you dream from your silos? Tides of ice polishing the moon dry? The wind’s creation of an appaloosa in the sky?

Of Maryand, circa 1981, when life was young and I saw towers and planes in my mind.

A leopard makes his cameo by chasing banana-skinned pythons into the vines. Wild ribbons of pink. Nouveau fire. I split a taxi with Athena through the ghetto around the arena. In her hand is a birthmark shaped like Gondwana. At the top of an escalator I found a jewelbox of broccoli and began to learn why it was red.

See Frank McIntosh. His illustrations made me speak of open jungles where time is told by stars.

The octopus-lifting branches left his stage in midriver, sparkling like a gigolo and revving those three hearts.

More of a trip than a dream but both lead to the same palace. Again.

I get to know the inner sanctum of Russian fashion, can’t express the clarity of the storefront glass. This was high-end mall theater: czar-time Nuryevs and extremely prim sluts enacting The History of Emotion in beautiful shoes. Film flutters. Flappers, dandies, empty racks, cashier and pipeline. Heiresses wretch ecstasy among the hedge fund studs. Strange fabrics gather dust. The satyr stabs the satyr hater. Designer clothes molder in time.

Another dream of breaking glass, the canvas of the archetypal accident.  Of what will tomorrow’s archetypes be made? 

Backcountry Victorian jewelhouse. I can’t tell a dress from a curtain 30-feet high. I can't tell the birdcage from the theater stage.

Somewhere by the river, my mother’ seamstress is rolling in her grace. 

Robin is weeping in a beautiful bathroom in the middle of the desert. She tells her handmaiden why love has eluded her. I can almost hear it clearly through the missing bricks in the wall.
A scene from my darkest days.

Blue diamonds of the hypersky. Simulated dream Dakotas. The masks of Atlantis surface on the sea.

Blue, the most appealing.

Another beach. This time the shore is entirely marble. The dog wears a Modigliani mask.

The first dream where I thought I had something. A marble shore. A pretty cliff.

Crystalline tyrannosaur skull lit up with Christmas lights under the grapevines on top of the hill.

A lovely gift I own only in this world.

On a drawbridge that led to a sloop in a river braided with fish, Kate Upton and Blackbeard did the whole Kama Sutra.

I stood alone in my middling existence looking for such things to put me over.

We helicopter over sugarfields.
The morning sun reflects
a thousand sweet diamonds.

On a bridge overlooking the thousands of interstates
leading to a newer home
I see myself and take a subway to
the tarantula queen.
Celebrated in white lace
on a carousel of tarantellas

dispensing death with a wave and a smile
and the math of those
who have loved a long
long time.

I don't know what is wrong with me.

There's a mall-turned-museum 
where an artist commemorates 
the closing time of her own genius 
beside a fountain that is running 
to the edge.

The intractable language of Empire 
ossifies over airwaves 
by ice come Thanksgiving morning.

In a loft on the horn of the prefrontal cortex, two superstars are making love like it's 1979.

Kathleen Turner. Ancient architecture. The snow of 1991.

I fell asleep among my toys
the nanny naked on the floor.

Waves peeling
like the pages of a book
ate the moon.

Rolls of fabric drooled from the windows.
The cavalry opened
my sliding glass door.

All of their camels went shh shh shh.

But I think they were spies
working for spies
working for me

and I’ve lost all account.

Waves kept crashing down.

Something is happening
the Major cried
Evacuation is futile.
The situation is terminal.

I fell asleep among my toys.

among my wet stuffed animals.

These are the dreams I like best: stupid, happy, pretty, not in need of explanation, devoid of context--Mozart dreams. They come and go and cannot last forever. And as with all such things of transience, without warning they’ll trail off to a jungle where life is more complex.

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Warehouse district. One thick and frosted window reminds the shattered of what was. Suddenly there’s an islet of rainforest in the intersection. Pull your hand from the humus and it’s full of worms painted like collectible snakes—boomslang, boa, king. The forest catches fire instantaneously and I’m some height above the city with skyscrapers and temptations on a carnival contraption shaped like a Conestoga that refuses to stop. The window pops and ants pour forth. Millions of them take the town like boiling syrup. Off in the haze, among the oil derricks and pyramids, the leaning tower of Pisa is collapsing into the air.

Now we enter the serious dream. Dreams that speak of something, part of which may be grasped (phallic anxiety, namely) the way a child reads Sophocles and clings to phrases she can recognize while bigger themes await a bigger mind. Dreams that go together like a decorated house in which the origin of almost every piece remains unknown, forgotten, or withheld by the owner. A collection is present, the aesthetic unstudied.

Down a crooked wooden spine, the coast of horses lay in bloom. Articulate icebergs flowering from the stones of a dead sea. No more hooves of shattered china buried in the sand, tractors turned to copper in the fields of foals, curveballs aimed with apples at the last standing tree. Apologies in mind flake like aging oyster shells. Just take the smile from a walnut’s crack, grapes thick as curls in a Roman woman’s hair, and leave their purple bags to hold the thimbles of the angelfish. 

If you want to fail, don’t say a word. It is the season of epiphanies. And sobered boats are apt to capsize in these sudden storms. Under rough waters you insist are quite placid.

A vestige of my 22. Sad session in the shadows of siblings I’ve since seen crumble and rebound. I was a child at the bottom of the world, alone and wondering what went beyond, and what could stop me.

It’s a beautiful zoo complete with helicopter tours of Madagascar, hikes along the tsunami zone of collapsing icebergs, rapid runs, and ceremonial biplane flights. Down the staircase cliffs by the great white sharks I enter headquarters. 

But things turn ugly when I mention the high-density chicken-coop curio cabinets, which hold all manner of tiny fucked-up animals—wild horses who ran too fast, lion cubs with inverted spines, down syndrome frogs. Why is the leopard exhibit is so damn baroque? I demand, and anger the zookeeper.

After the skip, the Amazon dams all break. The zookeeper reminds me how my father’s love of animals outstripped his ability to care for them. I offer new cages but soon I just set em all free. The Amazon is an orgy of wild beasts, and I feed my father and the zookeeper and you to the hippopotami.

Over time, the binary of day and night dissolves. The theories propounded by all of psychotherapy begin to curdle. Days conjoin like dreams themselves. Pay attention and the barrier between dream and reality thins to a film you can slit when you realize you are never unalive. Soon we return to the shaman state. A branch of life extends on which the insects love and the birds enliven. Still we are growing into our planet, exploring its creations, its memory, its conscience, its lust.

Incan antechamber—urinal and shoe display stand side by side within the theater. Back issues of the Journal of Immortality and Phrenology Today lay on the table. Goldfish thrash in coffee mugs. As the blue glass of the city crumbles into itself, Robin appears in a courtesan costume singing sea chanties, heart whining like a wrecked guitar as the champagne licks its pyramid of crystal.

Suddenly pale-blue g strings blew from the racks. My mother knew I was in love. It was true--I had worse credit than a pathological plagiarist. I walked among the toilets toward the altar where I took my prize--a cannister of tadpole foam to share in the streets.

Essence is extracted from a dozen sources. Dreams are a collective memory--minitaturized, made-to-order legends distilled from personal history--microcosms of your life, as myths are to nations. I can’t even dissect this one. I feel it is me, though I don’t know how. 

Pi etched into statues’ face a perfect field. I play chess with trees in a courtyard made for sultans, 40-second films projected on adobe walls as the heels clack their way up the emerald. Tropical foliage, iron scrollwork, gaslight and moons. A one-story glass palace stretches out on the lawn like a luxurious worm, hungry as hell as the noise begins—half-broken pigs moving through the halls, led by their butchers and squealing to the roast.

Sometimes the conscience plays too obvious a role for my tastes, this dream coming after one bout on the brink of vegetarianism. I had remembered my Ovid: Remember, they are your good friends and neighbors, he said, speaking of the beasts. More interesting is the one-story glass palace, how it devoured the pigs, and echoed another dream, one that sounds out even more clearly.

There's a snake so long, neither head nor tail is visible. Crawling on a beach where my father wallpapers the cliffs. It dawns the snake can't harm me no matter what I do. Beat it, stab, caress--it's so long neither head nor tail could wrap its energy around me quick enough to kill. The skin is shining mud, but the spots, once the black of backwater tides, are windows now--portals not much bigger than an airplane's. Then comes a lump in his continuance. Something is happening. Feet frozen, looking away makes it appear--a capybara staring out, eyes that make you say It wasn’t me.

Here is where association’s made. Organic or synthetic, glass skin or snakeskin it doesn’t matter. I saw the linearity of life two times filled like intestines with herbivores, desire. What we’re into has no face! Only cavities It must process with everything It sees. It’s not that big a deal to say. But to dream it, to carry it, to repeat it, and to understand that you view the universe a certain way--as an all-devouring continuum--is something else. Before long, you too will be wondering how important you really are, or anything is. Things like Is a rockslide bad for a mountain? Is an elephant an asset to the earth?

Come quickly to the musclebound heroes with the kodachrome scream, eyes scanning like schools of savage red fish for sharks appearing in our mist. Twin vapor trails spin the sky. High above, a stealth dot of jet lets loose its Fat Man, the gravitational pull sending up red flames. When the mofo lands, human detritus slops and settles like churning magma. Heads of state roll at the crossroads of battleaxes passing in midair, one atom’s breadth from sparking up annihilation on their flight toward the simultaneous decapitation of Ronald Duck and the Wicked Bitch. The axes brace in crossbones style. Concrete isn’t real enough to soften our fall. The sunset is medical green. The blood spills a radiant script. The rainbow exists in the lightning.

Anyone can be prescient. This is the cynic’s interpretation of Synesisus' observation that all signs are things appearing through all things. This dream awaits only the next disaster (dirty bomb, namely) to achieve prophethood. If said disaster does not present itself, I need only tweak it a little so that the Bomb represents merely a Big Change in the offing, a mayoral shakeup, a landslide election, a brewing panic. In this way, dream interpretation has been as discredited as astrology or fortune cookie predictions. Its targets are determined not by its aim but by where the arrow lands.

Once I dreamt my cat was dying, woke up the next day to find the bones of a cat in the garage that had crawled in and died that winter. I was prescient. The next week, my real cat was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Prescient again. Of which reality was my dream prophetic? All signs are things appearing through all things. Knowing which sign when is the skeleton key. Our unity can be achieved, but only in a web of tendrils where the world and all its matter is a homologous mass speaking to itself and echoing. Beware.

At the summit of a lightning-green hill, the wind paints pictures in the grass revealing me now as a bear, now an adulterer, a Founding Father, a truck driver, a tree, a molecule. The wind has no particular picture in mind.

It would seem much easier to simply be the adulterer, the tree, the molecule, and circumvent the device by which the wind explains the many characters I am, could be. But the mind at night delights in life by blowing it up on a universal scale.

I won’t pretend my dreams are so clear cut as I portray them here—this one’s culled from a larger source in which John Candy was part panda—part businessman out on the roof a run-down hotel in Nepal, ampitheaters collapsing into canyons, old ladies waiting for a massage. Shit dreams. C minus dreams. The usual dreams. Yet from that, the wind, my portrait painter. The canvas as those leaves of grass. Elements to be extracted for their fineness like details from old paintings or certain lines from giant volumes.

Sometimes you may even catch a glimpse of a figure who cannot otherwise be seen. My muse is one.

She keeps her secrets like assassins worth their weight, sees me as a hawk a mouse. Here she comes, descending the stairs on an ostrich, half-naked, seductive, and nuts to preside on a pond where citric skins of fish and membranes burn. Dismounting her bird, tits akimbo, low, unbroken notes bend upward through each octave before shattering to screams, before she gives the diorama of her womb where the future can be seen. 

In the back of a trailer I clean the armor she leaves at night, ash-white as the sky at sea, made of lavender and mollusk shells, there beside the porchstep oil drums with a mask from which I interpret her face, waiting to hear my name escape like a sparrow from its home. Only the rooster blows its bugle to the summer air.

This woman is an easy scapegoat for every offense—spending, pilling, smoking, drinking—and those who inflame her must be cut off immediately or feathered into daily life by years of cajoling, adoration, and angst. My muse—half Circe, half bird. She lives in mortal terror of my wife, the only human who can keep me from the edge. This dream came a night we slept apart. To this day, I find it hard to write with my wife in the room. Some find this a charming dimension of our adolescent love; others a sign of deep dysfunction. Everything must be shared say the latter. Is everything ok at home? they ask. Yes, but our daimonic personas are completely odds is not a great answer. But Emily is an arid landscape, ideal for living, unsuitable for secrets, and I am a jungle. Into each other we reach for escape, knowing we can never integrate.

So every dreamer must walk a tightrope between 2 worlds. Writers must know how to balance and how, on occasion, to make a spectacular fall. Agility is key—most acrobats retire, some die. You never know.

Poe is another, though less mysterious, figure who has appeared to me. As a fantasy Santa Claus.

Here he comes, conducting amusement park trains streaming into the house  with his gifts piled high in the cars—a portrait of Baudelaire, hats by Kikirara Shoten, pillows by Seraph and Splendor, tin boxes with artichokes and adverbs and football cards, miniature supercars, models of eroded chateaux, a nest of mud and gold with Faberge eggs, cigars lined up like friendly soldiers in a box, LSD, the effects of which won’t be felt for a decade, locks of Helen’s pubic hair, and a figure-8 catwalk at the end of the caboose down which an elephant stripteases, then trunks out a pack of trading cards. I got 

The Chicken and Francis Bacon 
Elegabalus' First Time 
Christy Turlington Gets a Face Tattoo 
Blackbeard's 14 Wives 
Mozart Confronting His Creditors 
The Discovery of Slavery.

All mine, if he can have one taste of the strawberry shortcake growing in my icebox.

In the autumn of 2010 I began a series of what I call pirate dreams. They were no different than others I have had, but came in quick succession, belonging of each other, all succinct, all venting the frustration of my very happy situation, a private way to protect myself from the shit of what everyone wants to make our future doomsdecades.

Hip deep before the cave in gel-black water and perfect rocks, the mushrooms bloom, the dripping gold, the aqua sky, the purple fish, the gemstones and jellies call from inside. I am about to be still. Part of the cornucopia. A galleon off the coast doesn’t see. An entrance like the Luray Caverns with an immediate escalator leading to rooms of moist earth, subterranean forest and sand, liver and mist, all-amber chambers where insects and humans trap in the trees, and stained-glass floors illuminated by the lava boiling below. 

I call this dream Bliss Torff. Another dream of islands and wild nature, the cave substituting for an anus or a hermitage. Another pretty dream. For men, as they grow older, the importance of prettiness cannot be understated. Visit any hospital room and you will see nurses reached for by bony hands that once were thick. 

This next one I call Golden Scarab, a homage to locomotives and stars I’ve never known.

My love is the amphibious pose I never saw struck in better cities at sunset on a hotel wall. This parallel city buzzes by exquisite black trains, its relief like a glacier in full sun. Our machinehood sped by whips, the sap of ladies gathered in the angles of shaded walls and beds of sand inside. The headboard is a switchboard, golden buttons arranged in patterns meant to conjure portholes. Press Imotek for milk. Press Osiris for Things, Press Pharoah for cruise ships that split the city on immediate canals. Someone says the hotel elevator holds deceit. Here, all prostitutes leave receipts. And the beetles can be trapped in bell jars if your timing flies.

As we age the dreams get more scattered, pile up like bills and stressors with details unremembered. Dreams that once would have held our attention for days sift out to a few minor details, a few predictable themes. The centrifugal force of the spinning earth separates everything. An image supplants its context. One-liners replace substance. Links, words. A second, a lifetime. As in life, in dreams.

Apaches crucified on the spokes of wagon wheels, canyonland dinocracies in the lemon squall at dawn. I crawl among the dunes to be erased in light. My shadow can be seen on the browning bodies of fall trees. The twisted funk of locomotives, blackbird grapeshot kicked from smokestacks. My ribs become the harp you play. My shadow can be seen on the browning bodies of fall trees. Travelling the country for a place where it can rest. By the seashore lays a stable that is full of panicked horses. Their salted milk nursed me out of Night. Now a giant oaken frigate has capsized on the sand, and a palace full of seashells aches with women’s hollow wombs. But the temple has an organ, and a stranger plays a tune. So carry my heart to the rotting barn that lays in the cloud of wasps. The marquis is waiting there with the horses drinking the sea. Point out the criminal on the glowing tile in the temple. Gather the treasure that waits in my winter. My shadow can be seen on the browning bodies of fall trees.

This dream was full of mother—child issues so I called it The Unborn, knowing the title had political freight. It quickly got me in the door of a conservative publication and a whole lot of trouble. I learned my own interpretations are bound to myself, that others will make what they will. After that, my dreams dissolved even further.

Veranda whiteout. Unfeeling zombies fill Shadow Island, and the innkeepers knowdown. Whitedeath mansion mill in the jungle light. The same place I once saw de Sade self-vivisected on the lawn. Niagras pouring down entryways. Copperlight mist. Fake twilight—the nights of old movies where blue filters imitated evening. Now is where I make love on the stairwell as lizards on the ceiling watch. Back again, blue this time. My body the machete.

I call this dream Morning though it took place at night—the shadows made it seem so 4th-grade.

I believe the key to staying young is to understand where your dreams are headed, to know the symbols, to keep them tidy. Otherwise, you inhabit a charnel house ransacked every night by another fleeting day. A world you inhabit only in body to the lesser extent of what a human is capable of. And those of us who lessen in extent end up quickly at the farthest reaches of the world, quickly in the jaws of a dream with no end.

Some nights I dream that I am followed by a wolverine across a wasteland. It's very cold, and the snow
like grains of sand, the moon so bright I can see the past
in a plate of ice.

My head is low. And his is roaming for a scent. I do not gain he does not close. We are like a bone the wind blows.

I could have made a terrible mistake.

I’m having trouble keeping up these days. All too often I find myself opening emails and visiting the dentist in the night. The rest I cannot reconcile. As Ralph Manheim observed in his study of Novalis, the dreamer’s “journey is not for the poetry’s sake, but for the sake of bringing a succession of impassioned dreams to a sane end”. For now, even for Rimbaud in the end, sanity was the goal. Feel then deeply, but bring it home.

Late night in the solar system. Obama comes to me, has heard I'm thinking of quitting my job again. It's more than just park rain and heavenly chicken at this point. We wander through a gumdrop galaxy of planets crevassed in an interstellar cloud bank that has melted through like hard candy in the mouth. The way a block of ice melts under a hot water stream. Here and again, lime Saturn, pink Venus, canary Jupiter--stardust and tissue paper wrapping them like boustiers of multicolored breasts, the whole universe a pill exploding drugs and love and unforseen health problems blowing in from PsR 1257 12A. It is through a cave in the sky, still smeared in dark matter, that we drop from the clouds and reenter the rain. He said nothing, but the point is made. Back again at the fountains, Boucher’s Venus in full bloom.

 Nothing in the world can compare with the feeling of auspiciousness after some fine dream; how it changes you however briefly, like a good haircut. It must be something right? Too beautiful to be a lie. Too insistent to be insincere, if such things matter in an overordered world. Sooner or later, a guide must find you; pray from within to whatever you worship. Reason, vision, and the wives or husbands of those who also believe.

An alternative 1983: Michelle calls wanting answers to multiplication problems. I step into the curvature of night and press the moon for more info. Under the apple trees of my childhood, the sky fills with stars, each played by its own cicada. The frogs lend vibrato and the answers to me.


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