Last night I dreamt that I was drowning in the Strait of Messina– the waterway between Italy and Sicily.
I had recklessly rowed out alone in a small blue boat and the tide had caught me, and swept me out to sea.
I say reckless because earlier, I had consumed a bottle of Valpolicella in a darkened bistro, talking politics with the Calabrians, plugging the jukebox with lire so that it played Mozart.
As I was drowning, I was trying to sing an aria– “Dov ‘e sono,” or “Sempre Libera.” I was being reckless, taunting the sea, daring it to take me.
I plunged down many fathoms; caught in long red sea anemones were the skeletons of mariners, gesturing to me, inviting me to dance, or to make love.
I was searching for someone I had come back to Italy to find. I had traced where he had been over time, from the time we were young lovers, to this time, by asking many questions.
Someone had said he had been overcome with grief when I left and ridden a horse out into the ocean, never to return. Some had said that was a lie, that he had found love again. Another person said that was true but that he was alone now and that if I came back to Scylla, and waited, and lived there, eventually I would see him one day; he would come in from the wild place where he lived in the hills, living on fresh grapes and snared rabbits, gone mad.
But now I was trapped under water. I could not stop my descent. Transparent figures with wings, half dragonfly, half human were on either side of me, pulling me down, their hair swirling around them.
. . . . .
I wake, gasping, fighting my way to the surface. I wrestle with my comforter, thinking that I am being sucked under again. I cannot catch my breath; I retch, gagging up sea water, my t shirt that I wear to bed sticking to me. My bad leg is swollen to twice its normal size. It sticks out as it always does, from my hip, in a curve like a scythe. My left leg has begun to wear and it too is throbbing.
I have strong arms for a woman, and I row to the edge of the bed. The ringing in my ears from ascending from the depths of my dream abates.
I pull on my black brace and step over to the brocade chair next to the bed. I find the longest of my ace wraps and wrap the left knee. I watch the forecast: storms, which mean snow or rain, which mean clearing weather and new grass.
I get up and limp with the aid of my walker into the living room. The dog lifts her head sleepily. I let her out into the dawn.
I cut a circle out of a section of paper towel for a coffee filter and spoon in enough for three cups.
I sit in the dawn window with my coffee. Optimistic dark birds are already carrying on in the elms behind my apartment. Then, the reassurance of the train that passes at daybreak with its long call.
I imagine that the train is for me, that the luminous clouds winding their way over the tree tops east are for me. Surely something belongs to me that is of this world.
If there were someone here to kiss, I would kiss him now. If there were an infant in a bassinette, I would suckle her and hold her tightly.
I dance with the alphabet, journey in language out into depths where drowning is a metaphor for anyone’s taking; consider D.H. Lawrence at the end of “Love on the Farm”–
“She drowns against him, and finds death good.”
To approximate drowning I drink a glass of forgetfulness. Soon I will descend out of the reach of morning’s light into the freeing waters of oblivion again.