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Sunday 27 December 2009

Remembering Dreams


File:Gekko Emperor Godaigo.jpg

You only dream any dream once. If you choose not to linger
Abed awhile to snatch from
Forgetfulness the wandering images which darkness
Has projected -- a confused miniaturist's
Curious masque -- will you get another chance? But then:

Having arrived in your mist-shrouded brain as you slept,
Slipping in under hooded robes as the gatekeeper
Was snoozing, cautiously secretive
Every silk slippered step of the way,
Do these phantom images really wish to be kept? Recalling

That Imperial Forgetter of his dreams
Who needed a seer at dawn to remind him of the form
Meaning assumes all over again every livelong day,
One can imagine why the dreams of a Caesar
Might not want to be remembered. Figures

A-skulk 'mid slinky shadows, materializing
From and then fading back into the dark banks of the Tiber.
Morning passes over the mind vaguely, a coating
Of wax that gums up the works of the biological timepiece.
Therefore you dally with your visions. You can only have them once.

File:Vittore Carpaccio 050 DreamofStUrsula.jpg

Emperor Godaigo, dreaming of ghosts at his palace in Gaigo: Gekko Ogata, 1890
The dream of St. Ursula: Vittore Carpaccio, c. 1495-1500 (Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice)


~otto~ said...

"Do these phantom images really wish to be kept?"

I kept a dream log for a year and it was torture. I say let them vanish.

TC said...


Funny you should say what I had supposed myself to be the only one on earth had ever thought. Must just go to show... something... scary?

You know, about thirty years ago Francis Crick, the man who had identified the spiral helix, got into dream studies. He determined that the brain in sleep has a sort of night-maintenance staff working in the back room whose duty is to generate dreams as disposal bins for the day's useless neural garbage. The dreaming thus has a simple vacuum-cleaning function, and no other; the brain's way of getting rid of the junk and clutter, like clearing out the cerebral garage. (Like all bad jobs, somebody's got to do it.) Crick concluded that the extensive and profoundly meaningful narrative constructions we later build out of our "dream memories" are in effect rubbish towers built out of pure rubbish.

His theory didn't do much at the box office, of course.

The most honest -- and therefore the most excruciating -- dream log I have ever read was Kerouac's Book of Dreams. Full of horrible scary dreams. Rickety tenement backsteps nightmares, those felt all too real and familiar from one's own derelict childhood. The worst was one in which he was at a Hollywood party as "himself", i.e. the somewhat uncouth exceptional outsider guest, rubbing shoulders uncomfortably with glamorous celebrities. In the dream he was coming on to the ultimately attractive movie star Olivia De Havilland. She put him down for his Canuck accent, an embarrassing tag of class deficit. Pure torture even to read it.

Of course Caesar's dreams were reputedly even worse.

I've heard there's now a phone application that allows a user who is planning on getting drunk to self-block in advance all numbers s/he might be tempted to "inappropriately" call or text-message. If only something similar could be invented to block in advance (and then vanish) all dream memories...

Anonymous said...

yes kerouac's book of dreams was difficult to read. i was never able to "finish it".
i remember how crushed i felt, how less than, when i realized that i dreamed in black and white. amazing what we can make ourselves feel small about.
could dreams be our "screensavers" for our brains? our brainsavers?

i surf
the evermounting wave
each night
time traveling
until the dream
turns to dawn
and i awake
in another future.

~otto~ said...

What a great iPhone app.


Hello Tom, Some great thoughts here, like that one only dreams a dream once (even those that might seem like 'repeats' don't EVER repeat), or that the "gatekeeper" has fallen asleep on the job. Something in today's seems, perchance, to resonate with this ---


grey light coming into sky above blackness
of ridge, silver of planet above branches
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

appear as cause of illusion,
meaning of memory not

presence, that is knowledge
of this, least of all

grey-white of cloud reflected in channel,
shadowed green canyon of ridge across it

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the world of dreams are a safe land where we can take shelter and some other times it is a relief to wake up. I have always found that dreams are an endless source of inspiration and for that I feel totally grateful.

Let's dream on!

TC said...

Remembering dreams, in
the voices of the other sleepers

the dream turns to dawn
and i awake in another future

i dreamed in black and white
as cause of illusion,

meaning of memory not
presence, that is knowledge

of this, least of all --
and some other times it is a relief to wake up.

(I think perhaps we may have surfed into some sort of Platonic Universal here... there comes to mind the wonderful passage in Proust about waking from dreams, like a deep sea diver coming back up to the surface... and too I am reminded of Little Nemo in Slumberland, a "book" of dreaming infinite dreams, no two the same, in which each strange dream episode is punctuated by the even stranger experience of waking up.)