Thursday, May 14, 2009

SATURDAY NIGHT I had a dream: on a train like an Amtrak with curving atrium like windows that were easy to look out of. I had a seat at the very front, not as a driver but as a passenger looking to my left at great gray clouds churning above the plain. It was not raining or nighttime, but the clouds were dense and it was dark and it seemed like it had been forever since we'd seen the sun. There was a sense in the dream that at any moment the clouds could turn apocalyptic at anytime, that the world would just end and there was no knowing if or when it would happen.

I was a little nervous about the uncertain timing, but was resigned to the situation and life on the train. It was full of international students. No names, but they were the kind of students I work with a lot at my job. I walked to the back of the train into a kind of supermarket brightly lit by florescent lights and spoke with a Dr. Chang (the scientist from the television series Lost). He didn't have much to add to our situation other than "wait and see." There was also a sense that there was nobody left to ask for help, that if the clouds had not already over taken others then they were in a situation similar to ours. Before I woke up the clouds lightened just a little and I remember saying to a group of students, reassuringly, that maybe we'll see the sun again, but it was still obscured and I didn't really know.

On Sunday I told my roommate about the dream and he said he had the same dream, half jokingly. He suggested that it was about the self dying. That didn't exactly sound right to me. Once in a graduate school workshop another student asked why I was always invoking the end of the world. My newspaper horoscope on Tuesday read "Your idea of "realistic" can come across to other as apocalyptic."


Before I went to sleep on Saturday, my roommate and I attended the second half of a symposium on poetry and medicine. The first speaker was a somatic psychologist specializing in sound. She lead us through some sound/song exercises and spoke about music being capable of more than entertainment. She also spoke about a particular interest of hers: Alzheimer's, how it runs in her family and the fact that she has done a lot of work around it and other forms of dementia. I approached her afterward and told her about the sound my father's been making for the last three years at Clearview (one of the "care facilities" he's been in since the spring of 2003); a kind of guttural chanting sound that he repeats over and over:
The first time I heard him do this was in the summer of 2006. Amy and I had taken him outside the facility for a little fresh air, and while standing on the little patch of lawn on the hospital's hill overlooking farmland, he strung together about four of these sounds and then stopped. Almost like a conversation, he would start and stop sporadically, with space in-between. "It sounds like he's saying car, doesn't it?" Like some kind of mystery. "Dad, do you mean car?" He would start again. We took him back inside.

Over the past three years he's come to do it more and more. So much so that his voice has grown hoarse: garh...barh...varh...arh...carh...barh... like a broken machine. I imagine the frontal lobe dissolving to reveal a lizard mind, or a cracked and broken skull leaking liquid the color of brake fluid, or a brain exposed like a cartoon zombie. I told a brief version of the above events to the speaker, waving a hand over my face to signal "no cognition." My question: what does the sound mean? She answered, shocking me out of the closed circuit of my imagination: "Whatever it means, it's not for you."


I felt strange walking to the BART after the talk, a little bit out of body, reminiscent of my first year in Providence during the Winter of 2003, goofed up on anxiety and panic attacks, and in serious need to talk to somebody about dad stuff, life stuff; seriously paranoid and unable to open my mouth. A kind of psychedelic nervousness that all of a sudden came up after the event. I felt strange but couldn't put my finger on what exactly the feeling was.

How the dream relates to all this I'm not sure, other than the fear that my mind is closing as well, the clouds are coming etc. but if most people I knew didn't also think there was something uniquely wrong with them I might be able to present this theory with more confidence, that there's nothing particularly unique about a writer with a death wish. Anyway, on Sunday, after a morning of reading and feeling weird, I struck out for the grocery with my headphones on and in the middle of an MF Doom song ("That's That") (of alllll the possible music,) I started sobbing in a good, necessary way.

The clouds. Like the ones I watched over the southwestern Wisconsin hills steaming towards the farm on an armada of wind. Dark clouds, storm clouds, and when the tornado warning would appear in the bottom left corner of the TV I would look through the long narrow rows of windows to confirm the fear. My father was away at work and it was just my brother and I waiting for it to pass. The tornado never came but the storms did, and with them the lightening striking all around the house, the highest point around. I'll stop there. The wind is huge tonight as I write this, Monday might. The last week of school.