I dream of beaten fields, whole landscapes cleansed of desire & pressed flat by an enormous iron. I start awake, not as if from a nightmare but from the ingestion of something too heavy, too incompatible with dreaming. I stumble downstairs & scan the latest headlines: people cutting holes in their attics, standing in water up to their necks. Whole towns smashed to rubble. There are rumors of bodies floating through the streets.
The next night, I dream of meeting my fetch, who resembles me in every way except that he seems to be a bit of a pedant & is not at all good-looking. We join forces to beat up my older brother, who is greatly offended. I wake to stories of gunfire & looting & the president surveying the damage from 20,000 feet.
In the following night’s dream, my nine-year-old niece gets a visit from herself as a five-year-old. They exchange spiteful words & withdraw to a safe distance, glaring. I wake & read about rapes and near-riots in the Superdome, mothers carrying dead children, children standing watch over dead grandparents, helpless to stop the bloating & the grim ministrations of rats.
Early the next morning, I find myself kneeling in my parent’s dining room beside the ghost of a young girl who grows steadily more visible as we talk. I casually touch the black skin of her arm. She feels solid, alive, she giggles & chatters like any five-year-old. “What is your name?” I ask softly. She pretends to mishear. “Her name is Lucy,” she says, holding up her blond doll. “I’m going to go stay in her house now. She lives in a big ol’ mansion on a hill with columns out front.”
My mother watches anxiously from the sofa. “Were those your parents we saw disappearing in the middle of the field?” she wonders. A look of panic crosses the girl’s face. She grips my hand tightly, & I wake. I get a shower & sit outside in a folding canvas chair under the stars, taking small sips of black coffee, then tilting my head all the way back. The Pleiades stand high overhead; Mars glimmers to their right, a bloodshot eye. Meteors flare one after the other & quickly gutter in the dark waters, whichever route they take toward the horizon. I sit breathing in the honeysuckle fragrance of wild tobacco – also called white shooting-star, after the shape of the blossoms – & listen to the crickets stuttering toward dawn.
My Paul Zweig reading project is, I hope, only temporarily stalled. I have been following the news closely, for once, and busying myself with many distractions. The title here plagiarizes Natsume Soseki’s 1908 collection of linked stories translated as Ten Nights of Dream. I’d love to hear from readers who may have had similarly disturbing dreams over the past week.