My dream about learning to dance

At the center of an unnamed European city, a large park doesn’t open its gates until noon. People line up to get in and sit at round tables drinking wine, eating small cakes or playing accordions. Our friend who lives in the city says if they would only open at a reasonable hour — 7:00 or 8:00 — hikers could start their journeys there, setting off on one of ten long-distance trails, which were once the routes that pilgrims took to visit all the lost fingers of the national saint. It’s crucial, he says, to begin at the right place, like a ball that must be thrown from behind the head. I go in search of a conference dedicated to a book they claim I wrote, though I have no memory of it. By the time I find the venue at the far end of the park, the last paper has been delivered and they are pushing the tables back to dance. A tall, thin woman insists on showing me the steps, walking behind me, raising my arms as high as they’ll go. Slower, she says, slower! Let the steps find you. Eventually we are almost motionless except for a slight twitching of the hands. I turn around to face her and find she’s somehow slipped away, leaving in her place an elm tree full of sparrows.

4 Comments


  1. Dreams are metaphors conveying insights from your unconscious. Only you know what they mean in waking life. Suggestion: Tune in to your emotions in this dream and ask yourself what feels like that in waking life. What are you learning now and you should go slower?
    (No need to answer me; these questions are for you.)
    I’m the author of three books on dreaming and taught dream workshops for oven ten years. The metaphors of dream led me to write and study poetry.

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  2. I think your dream and the resultant poem are both beautiful, like two faces of the same woman (or tree) you’ve turned around to find at the end of both dream and dance. Had I been the one to have such a dream, I imagine I would feel lobbed from behind by that ball… Thanks Dave.

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  3. I keep coming back to this. It’s a lovely piece of writing. The metamorphosis at the end is such a beautiful surprise. And I love the concept of a pilgrimage to visit all the lost fingers of the saint. Just been reading about St Hugh of Lincoln, who stole a finger from one of Mary Magdalene’s hands, kept as a holy relic in a French monastery, by biting it off …

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    1. Whoa. Yes, the cult of relics seems odd, doesn’t it? Until we think of the pilgrimages we moderns make to visit museums and stare at pieces of art — and how much those artworks cost.

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