Bridge, Moon, Professor, Shoes
Dreamed 2003? by Dorothea Tanning
Slept dreams, they say, take just a few seconds
no matter how long they are. Or how far
I walked on that bridge of spider silk
Her light trapped us in a radiance of bliss so
as we passed my old lecture hall, its professor
someone here tell me -- ?" to stare at us as we
with a sense of guilt. Had I a right to this?
a purpose -- say, shoes. Find shoes. On earth
void riding underfoot, its force backing me
Such bouncing's tiresome. Where's the bliss?
What a pie-face she is in her chalky pallor.
Oh, if I find shoes (size seven) they won't be
Tanning is best known as a surrealist painter, but now, in her nineties, she's turned to (often equally surreal) writing. This dream is from her first poetry collection, A Table of Content (Graywolf Press, 2004).
In the first couplet Tanning mentions a still-prevalent belief that dreams take place in a burst--subjective hours in objective seconds. In recent decades, electroencephalography, rapid eye movement tracking, and lucid dream experiments have all confirmed that dreams happen in realtime. Or at most, video time--compressed, to the point, skipping past the dull bits. But dreamtime is no illusion. What happens, happens.
So what happens here? A change of heart, that's for sure. A funny one. Tanning turns away from a magic flight with the moon, to her earthly professor and... shoes? Women have praised "retail therapy" (shoe-shopping!) as a better antidepressant than psychoanalysis and its patriarchal frustrations. Cheaper, too. But what's Tanning rejecting here? Well, she's been a surrealist all her long life--flying with the moon, skimming above earth, baring her, um, sole. I guess you can get bored even soaring with archetypes, and just want, sometimes, to go shopping. On Earth.
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