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The Hell Cafe

dreamed 2009/10/21 by Wayan


Wake 5 AM, pulse pounding; I sweat and shiver simultaneously; hands and feet tingle. The experiment failed! I took a beta blocker last night--a drug blocking epinephrine (adrenaline). My doctor wanted to see if it'd stop these predawn attacks. Nope! Just a bit less heart-racing. So whatever my night sweats are, epinephrine doesn't cause them--it's just one symptom. Multiple systems are going wild. Why?

After lunch: therapy with Shelley. Explore an old nightmare figure calling himself the Ghostmaster, who's returned in new nightmares like Praise the Dancing Goons. His agenda: he wants me to fight for respect. And if I don't obey he says he'll beat me up. Is he causing these attacks? It's true I don't seek respect. My social style's more like my dad--ingratiating, comic. But even if I hide my pride, it still won't let me risk rejection or act like a fool--I stick to my zones of competence. Safe and boring! Shelley suggests I dream about this proud side. And challenge it--date, flirt, play! Feed my anima Silky--she doesn't mind being seen as a fool.

Evening: finish Liz Tuccillo's comic novel How To Be Single, on New York women hungry for half-decent guys. I find men so unattractive it's a revelation for me. Suspect I'm blind to women who like me--I just don't expect it. Next, start Jonathan Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet. The LA art/music scene has more glitz and pretentiousness than San Francisco's. But love's the same: still hell.


I'm holding an illustrated tome
whose guts are gnarled--I try a poem,
turn the page to find the end is lost.
Oh. The book spills onto the wall!

Horizontal pages half a yard wide
are wall-pinned. Dry-sumi style
watercolors patchwork, roughly tile
to form an epic pseudo-scroll
by "the Ezra Pound of Comix" (no,
really, it says so on the wall!) And hey,
it's a fine museum sobriquet
for this Hockneyed thief of Buddhist lore
(who I don't respect much more
than I ever did that Confucian bore:
the Ezra Pound of Pound.)

The painting shows The Hell Cafe. You read
old Asian style, right to left. But in this show
the mostly Western viewers clockwise flow.
Relentless rightward throng! I'm squinched,
jostled along, forced round. And so...

First the Pit yawns. Ruby licks
    of flame illume;
Then a tonguelike chute drops bound
    mummy-bodies down.
Then the kitchens. Hell-chefs carve
    off the tasty bits of live
    sinners into stew.
Then the cliff-cafe. Panoramic view!
    Down the shimmer-red Abyss.
    The hottest place in town is this.
Then closer-ups of diners' haunted eyes,
    as they slowly realize
    they dine on the diners in line before.
Then the fore-terraces of Hell Cafe
    where most diners haven't yet
    tasted who their appetizers are.
Then endless files of trendish souls
    dressed to filed teeth. Wait for a turn
    in the new Scene To Be Seen.
Then all pales to haze--dim stone
    staircases rise, til upper right
    blues with hints of unfire light.
Sketch of a painting seen in a dream by Wayan: Hell Cafe, where customers unwittingly feed on previous diners. Hell-pit to left; cafe, center. Right: long line of hipsters wait to get into the hottest place in town. Dim gleam of daylight in upper right.

Impressive enough, even reversed.
But hell is not my thing. Oh,
sure I get it--souls or no,
our bodies end up diced entrees
in the Dog-eat-Dog Cafe.
We end. Death happens. Profound,
undeniable--if unsubtle. Pounded in.

But my ass-backward Western view
seems a plausible parable too:

If you have the guts to buck
all trend, you too can walk
right out of cannibal hell.

For nothing keeps a hungry soul
from leaving but inclination!
Daylight's a far dim beacon,
but glimmers blue, in sight.
Buddha had it almost right! No demon
guards keep the damned in line
save hunger to belong--not dine.

And the sin of pride, that bugaboo
that blasphemed Lucifer to hell,
can paradoxically shoo you
up to the light as well.
How? Just proudly, coldly go
against the cellphoned, hellbound flow.


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