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Fish Remains

Dreamed 1985/9/18 by Katherine Metcalf Nelson


This is the final dream in KMN's Night Fishing, some eight years almost to the day after the first, and it echoes her earliest entries, like Fish Birth--not just fish, but moms and daughters and menstrual blood. Those first dreams gave the unavoidable impression they were initiatory, while the ritual in the following dream (in the Vatican, no less) practically shouts closure. The long project was done.

Aside from getting it out there, of course! Few men and VERY few women have managed to publish dream-art books. For KMN to have done so--and in color--was an achievement.

Fish swimming across a huge eye; dream-art by Katherine Metcalf Nelson.


On the.morning of my forty-fifth birthday, I enter a gathering of women
who fill a room for an initiation ceremony.

As I walk in, one says, "Strip down to yourself. Take off your dress and iron it
out before you hang it up." I remember the sisters of the shield in Jaguar Woman,
the circle of women who took off their masks for the initiate to see inside.

In the middle sits an ironing board piled with clothes. On top of the pile, I pile
my own, and a woman asks me, "'where do you want to begin?"

"Where I end, with a dream."

Menstrual blood stains my aqua nightgown and my bare hands. I go downstairs
to the toilet to clean up before I climb up a long flight of stairs into the basilica
of San Pietro. Before me, under Michelangelo's dome, is a rectangular altar
table of dark stone on which sits a white oval platter shaped like an eye.
On the platter are the remains of pieces of pink fish flesh
that I have chewed and spit out.

I motion to my thirteen-year-old daughter, saying, 'This is the bier of
St. Peter." As I speak, a whole fish appears in place of pieces, a darkly
glistening, green-gold steelhead with a full apricot-colored belly.

Reverently, I pick up the platter. We descend the stairs, circle the great sunlit
circle of the colonnade, and return. Inside, I place my offering on the altar in
the middle of the great fishbowl in the center of the Holy See.

Source: Katherine Metcalf Nelson's Night Fishing, 1997, p.145

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