Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where Memory and Dream Are One

Image borrowed from Bing

Where Memory and Dream Are One

In the dream I stretched out almost motionless,
the words I tried to speak caught in my throat
and nearly choking me. The place was filled with faces,
like a giant hall,* a kind of night club
with the sound of distant music ringing in my ears.
Someone to the right of me, another sleeping figure,
said its name was Stille or die Stille,
which was clear enough in German
but I couldn’t find the proper English* word for it.
Even more puzzling, I was aware,
if vaguely, that it was taking place in Russia,
and that the strangers with us were
from the newly minted* class of Russian billionaires.
I tried to point it out to those around me,
that this Russia was far different
from the one we once imagined. I was overcome
with grief and longing – emotions in my dreams,
rarely in waking -- and alarmed at the water
that had started rising in the hall.
I had long loved the word cockeyed and mouthed
it as a sure* expression of my thoughts.
It came back in a flow of rhyme*
I spewed forth for the other sleepers.
Was this hall a mausoleum and the sleepers
all of those I knew in life,
now safely stacked away, forever?
I stepped down from my perch and tried
to swim among the beds and tables, following
the voices of the rich that led me
to an outer courtyard. Even here the word tsunami
rattled in my ears, my fingers groping
for a ladder that was out of reach.
Was it the inland sea,* I wondered,
a lake with putrid birds, a bog, a fen, a mash of
crimson bodies, more than I could count?
My shoes had little lights attached,*
enough to lead me down a narrow causeway,
the end of which was darkness
more dense than death. Time is abolished
was the line that came at me – the
world is o’er. I thought if I could start to sing,
the words would carry me across, but what?
A song about a king, a bird, a fallen tree,
all too romantic. The pressure of the
ooze under my feet that pulls me down,
that sends an ache up through my legs,*
makes me wonder that my heart can
still keep beating. I would rather sleep
or crawl back to the hall,
the place from which I came. But where?
in which direction? with what name to name it?
Stille or die Stille, if they ever found me here,
would anybody understand me?*
These were what I feared: the hangman,
the exploding bombs, the curtains blocking sight,
the holy fools, the drifters, the march of time,
the rosary of skulls, the wings of love,
the broken blossoms, the children’s games,
the hostile wind, the duendicitos. For
me the oldest memories are those of being lost:
a hall of celebrating giants,
a cellar with a furnace burning bright,
a point where memory and dream are one. I
crawl my way toward waking, still bereft.

Jerome Rothenberg

Posted over on his site Poems an Poetics

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