NOLA dreams

woman in sparkly dress at night
Christmas Night | New Orleans | Gentilly | Lit by a streetlamp

Last year evaporated.
boiled over,
filled to the brim and
poured over the edges
leaving December behind.

The beauty and the un-beautiful
time escapes like steam from a kettle
screaming with possibilities
I want to find more magic.
I am digging.



foggy morning
October Fog #1

It’s like trying to describe why you love the way oatmeal looks. It’s gray, face it. It oozes.
It’s not colorful but it sometimes hides sweet colorful things, like raspberries or bright green bits of a diced Granny Smith.

It’s like trying to bottle the feeling you got when, slightly car sick, you dozed off in the back of the station wagon, and dreamily overheard a conversation between your parents that you didn’t fully understand. It was raining, the wipers squeaking and groaning, it was night time, semi-truck lights bearing down, passing, bearing down again, your siblings asleep in the seat ahead, your dad’s deep voice, the glow of the dashboard haloing your mom’s short dark curls, the last thing you see before you slide down into the crevasse between the back seat and the way-way back. And that’s when something sharp cuts through the dozy-long-distance-drive fog.

Your mother. She’s angry! You’ve never heard her speak so forcefully, and even if the individual words are swallowed by grumbling highway drone, you know something’s wrong.

It’s like reading a poem you cannot understand, but cannot stop reading. You bump through it, feeling the fuzzy edges of emotions scraping your heart. You stumble, arms outstretched, as lights appear in the distance, as trees turn into mountains, as mountains are swallowed whole, as bushes graze like herds of buffalo. Through the murk, color surges—brake lights and red maple leaves—like berries stirred up in a bowl of fog-gray oatmeal on an ordinary Tuesday when someone you love tells you to go, go! Go out into the fog, just go! And you go, and the world makes no sense half the time, does it? Because a five minute walk can swallow you whole, like you were a spoonful.

In an instant, you’re not sleepy, not stirring oatmeal, no–you are in the oatmeal, you’re a bright bit, maybe?
Yes, yes. You are.

While you slept, love descended like a cloud sent from heaven to make the pitch across the road look like a painting. In the invisible rustle of birds, you sense your mother near. The birds sing, or maybe it’s her, there in the fog, another beautiful bright bit.

Love is always hidden in the gray. Stir, stir, stir it up.

foggy morning
October Fog #2

No and You Cannot


No and You Cannot

Rinsing a dish, I think:
When I grow up, I want to be a poem!
flaring, burning, writhing, flaming, feel my body
shrivel to ash, feel my soul
drift heavenward…

“Ri-dic-u-lous!” the twins chorus
No and You Cannot, that pair
who live in my head, have lived there
my whole life, givers of doubt
little shivers, always with me

They’ve strung hammocks, hung lanterns
sometimes, they sleep
their relentless snoring
rising, falling, sawing—a backdrop like the cicadas
outside in the mulberry tree

I sort knives, forks, spoons, bowls
Snug in my brain, the twins curl, lulled by my clatter
I scrub at some eggy crust and quietly think:
Sweet pumice stone,
Meet beating heart

Grind it down, down
grind it down,  smooth it away…
You Cannot kicks me. No (so dramatic!) screams in her sleep.
My dogged heart keeps on
enduring, enduring, enduring

Can you hear it? Like the cicadas
like the deep breaths of my hopes and my dreams
rising, falling, enduring
enduring, enduring. I’m fifty-two.
And I’ve decided: when I grow up, I want to be a poem.

On Dreams


Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

–Edgar Allen Poe

In 1849, Poe wrote, “It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.” Dreams, in other words, could be viewed as endless echoing of stories, our own stories. Rippling through time, like waves breaking, again and again. The same waves, the same stories, but different each time.

I love (and yet find a bit creepy) the idea of my present life surfacing as a dream in a future life. I wonder sometimes whose reality I’m channeling in dreams. It doesn’t always seem to be my own.

A few weeks ago, I reclined on a chaise in a once grand Parisian apartment, as a young woman arranged her tools, preparing to tattoo the soles of my feet, which worried me a bit, but apparently I’d agreed to let her practice on me, and it seemed unfair to weasel out.

But the apartment, wow—that’s what I was focused on, with its two-story-high windows thrown open, sheer curtains blowing in the breeze; raised-panel walls, battered, yet elegant; deep coffered ceilings, and, best of all— a postcard-worthy cerulean view of the sea from those huge windows (Yes. I know. Paris is not on the ocean. It was a dream.) The apartment rambled on endlessly, one cavernous room to the next. One room differed markedly from the others. It was paneled in mahogany and lined with built-in curio cabinets, each cubby displaying a different specimen of sea sponge. I hated to leave.

Every night I hope to dip back into that grand dreamscape, minus the tattoo needles aimed at my feet. Maybe in a past, unknowable life, I once lived in Paris, or by the sea. Is dreaming just a crazy nocturnal adventure? Or does it serve a purpose?

The question of what purpose dreams serve is as old as time. What I keep coming back to is the notion that dreams are the stories that we create ourselves, night after night.

There are scientists who believe dreams are a meaningless side effect of sleep. A sunset is just a side effect of the angle of light through atmosphere and dust; also ‘meaningless’ to humans except for the immeasurable joy and beauty sunsets bring, and the thousands of years when sunsets helped forecast weather and trigger an end to the day’s tasks. If dreams are side effects, they certainly aren’t ‘meaningless,’ as anyone who has collected and analyzed dreams can tell you. Just as the light at sunset renders the world a glowy, more beautiful place, perhaps dreams also filter reality into a more fantastical form.

If we reflect on the dreamworld, if we study our dreams and record them, does that shed a bright light on our hidden thoughts and desires? In science, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation makes on a phenomenon being observed. When observer cameras were added to an experiment using electrons, the electrons acted as particles. When the camera was absent, the electrons acted as both wave and particle simultaneously. Does the practice of recording our dreams have a similar effect on our dreams? Do my dreams play out differently when they ‘know’ I am recording them? I wonder, sometimes.

Carl Jung was convinced of the importance of dreams to mental health and growth; that the unconscious mind speaks directly to the conscious mind through the medium of dreams, using symbols to communicate important information that the dreamer is not yet consciously aware of, but needs to know to foster healthy growth. He believed in the collective unconscious, too, meaning that he felt a dreamer has access to a great pool of knowledge and wisdom, which could explain how sometimes, great ideas come to people as they sleep.

The amazing-idea-in-your-sleep is the dream equivalent of winning the lottery, but we all dream.

Whether we remember our dreams or not, science reveals that everyone weaves stories in the night. Since dreaming survived evolution, I’m pretty sure it’s an indicator that people require dreams as much as they require food and love.

Maybe dreams do for our souls what air does for our lungs?