Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the dark tower

I don’t remember anything is what I say to myself when I come to in the morning, mouth gauzy, joints stiff, having slept so soundly that the left side of my face holds the impression of my wrinkled pillow cover. The inside of my cheek sore. Spirits came through the window last night. Is it because I slept facing the window?

I have never been good at recording my dreams, those almost real events taking place in dim landscapes, seen in a series of dull images, like a series of faded photographic slides. An owl in bare tree, its eyes hovering above a silver river. A boy soaring. Waterfalls rushing and tumbling. An old lady who may or may not have been a favorite aunt turning around, then melting away like hot wax. A massive wooden door and the sensation of reaching out to turn the knob and not quite getting there. A sensation of heat – is that why the covers had been thrown off? – watching a woman with bare arms thrown over her head, showing the pale side of her neck, just beneath a reddening ear. Is it possible to close your eyes in a dream if they’re already closed?

I do remember having dreamt, it's true. It's like remembering a book I'd read years ago, not the book itself, neither the author nor its content, but the sensation of having read it, perhaps one or two dim scenes, or the vague impression it left. Staring at a postcard of the Alps, the mind grasping to remember exactly what it was doing there. I remember walking, and can tell you where I walked. I have maps to help me retrace the steps I took. The path that went over the brook, the ridge overlooking the lake. Here is where I ate an apple. I remember that it tasted wonderful. The sweet crunch and juicy flesh. The day started with showers but had cleared by noon and gotten warm. It was hard going over the muddy path and soaked fields. I remember sheep playing hide-and-seek. I hadn't realized sheep were that smart.

When we were in high school -- this is a long time ago even though I remember it with awful clarity -- in our senior year we read the play
Life is a Dream by Calderon. The Polish Prince in his dark tower, later wanting to kill his father, the one who had imprisoned him, convinced his day in court was but a dream. None of us knew what to make of it -- dreaming that I wake from this that waking is -- a bunch of superficial and pretentious teenagers with attitude to spare. The lousy thing was more than three hundred years old and, unlike Shakespeare, wasn't even originally written in English. It was more boring than Molière. I remember struggling to understand it, secretly, but retreated in the splendor of a midsummer night. No clue.

Now I am left with the feeling that it is true. The dreams and the life. It's just that I can't tell which is which, or whether, at this point on my journey, it matters.

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