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.
Lyle Daggett said:
This took me in several amazing directions. The descent (in the dream) into water makes me think of the various myths of journeys to the underworld, or into the labyrinth. Typically in such myths the one to goes underworld seeks something, brings something back to the surface world, some object of knowledge or power.
In the underworld myths the traveler also typically has several encounters along the way where they have to answer questions, riddles, or some other piece of cryptic business, before they can proceed to the next stage of the journey. I somewhat perceive this also in what you’ve told here of the dream — the various “choices” of what may have happened to the man you’re searching for.
Taunting the sea, daring it — there’s a story in the Odyssey where one of the Greek commanders, Aias (or Ajax in Latin — not the famous warrior Ajax, but another one, “Little Aias” or “Little Ajax”), almost makes it home to Greece, but within sight of shore a huge storm starts, and his ship is sundered and sinks, all crew members are lost, and only Aias himself manages to make it to shore — to the very edge of shore, clinging for his life to a rock outcropping at the shore’s edge; and then he defiantly shouts that not even a god could kill him. At which point a gigantic wave swells up from the sea, breaks off the rock Aias is holding onto, and sweeps him away to his death.
I don’t have any sense that the dream (what you’ve told of it) is about death, though the story from the Odyssey came to mind.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Robert Bosnak’s book A Little Course in Dreams — some years back I came across it, and found it highly useful both for exploring possibilities in dreams, and in coming to greater facility with getting at the mysteries of poems that are trying to emerge into the world when I’m writing. Bosnak talks about methods for recalling a dream when all you can remember is a single image or scene or fragment. I found that the same methods he talks about were effective in writing poems.
Wow. Points of touch, Lyle. The Strait of Messina is where Scylla and Charybdis are said to have battled and at another point in the Odyssey Poseidon is said to have risen and pulled him under I think… I spent time with this man in a fishing town called Scylla built into the seacliffs. I just finished an eighteen chapter draft of a memoir of the trip which was so mythical in so many ways it has been exhausting to write, giving rise to dreams of dying I am sure. Ultimately I take away from the dream giving myself to risk because really, what else is there for us to give ourselves to? Thank you so very much for your wise and careful commenting and the “anima” you bring to our discussions and that enriches and encourages me. x j p.s. I’m swerving off in a completely different direction to post something I’ve kept locked away that is hopefully just down to earth storytelling, mythic in its own way….