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Before Bed

Dreamed ca. 1995? by Mary Ruefle

I bathe at night. I dress in white. The sheets are clean,
for sleep is an important occasion.
And since I cannot bear a tick, the small clock
is placed under the bed
like a carefully lost invitation.
I am going to a coronation. And I'm not just
one of the crowd, I am walking down the aisle
of a great church and somebody carries my head
on a pillow. When we reach the end I pick it up,
hold it high, say a few words of farewell.
Then I put it on somebody else's head.
And though you could say I've never worn it
myself, I play an important role,
I plan the details that allow the rest of the country
to sleep, to dream of the day they'll be the one.
But I keep the secrets of how it is done.

--Mary Ruefle


What amuses me here is how quietly and elegantly Ruefle's unconscious upsets an axiom shared by most dream-theories for a century: that the dream-self is always the ego, the conscious 'waking' I. Doesn't the viewpoint of Ruefle's dream seem more like the unconscious--like dreaming itself? She's given up her head (and what better image for that patronizing, negative label "unconscious"?)--yet she's the quietly competent Jeeves who knows how it all works, though never donning the crown of nominal self-awarensss! The power behind ego's throne.

--Chris Wayan

Source: Cold Pluto, © 1996 by Mary Ruefle, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh.

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