Diary Poem: Uses of Dreams

By | 1 May 2018

I have been reading Coleridge on dreams
-in an email to the author from Lisa Gorton)

I dream that the dead are living.
Katharine says soft dreams where the loved dead seem
reciprocal and living are really nightmares to suffer, feel
anguish to awake to the bitter real. If no-theme were dream
I think now I would offer: a Commonplace Book in tatters:
Kurosawa’s fox wedding, Yeats’ quote: in dreams begins
responsibility, or how Confucius laments and exclaims
he has fallen from himself, too long has not seen
in his dreams the Prince of Chang. Not long the foxes sang
for Coleridge on the death-cold Nepean. He explains
in my sleep once more that the dusk reverses the dawn:
that by day the being expresses in words, but unity again
combines that with his night eyes’ yearning vision
fed deep by the body’s random sensations: he would term
‘double-touch’ how the body feels feeling. And a dream
in itself is double-touch, I’m seeing. How tight are the rhymes
in sleep, the subconscious — if you call it that and not a thing
like acetylocholine, when the visual and the emotions
revolve to replace norephinephrine-serotonin neurons:
but the effect as he described it is the same.
Rhymes tighten when
the sleep-brain curls up on itself, as in the womb
or death. I would offer the no-theme stream an explanation
too of Shakespeare’s we are such stuff as dreams
are made of: that it is our function to comprise them,
not their function to be us, and then who does become
the dreamer? Is it as in Bergman’s Shame, when Ullman
alive at the end on the war-exhausted ocean
asks what if the dreamer of all this wakes realising
it was a dream and is ashamed? ‘Living catacombs’
is how Coleridge describes the dream’s comprising.
Lying down, with an opium groan, his fear a leaping
‘great pig’ from sense-data, a frightening woman.
The fox wedding is as formal as the staged imagination,
as if bones are stacked in labels with street signs.
Does this make it sinister, or safer? Sometimes some
unconsciousness overtakes the double-touching,
and despite the nightmare nature of the daring,
the dead can become the living once again.

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