My Mother's Closet
dreamed around 2000 by Rachel Hadas; provoking a 2008/9/16 dream by Chris Wayan
When we rummage through
the wardrobes of the dead,
are we not combining
reunion, disguise, and hiding place?
All these are the specialties of dreams.
Into--no, out of my mother's closet
The Queen dies at the end, which wasn't yet.
Queen in the dreamplay. Loved me.
Anxious about me in the dangerous court,
anxious about my departure,
anxious about my clandestine return,
as mothers are, and helpless, too, to help me,
as mothers are. I woke up struggling,
my right, my writing hand, my whole right arm
clenched and bent painfully under the pillow.
Had I been taking ghost dictation?
Or into what improbable disguises
Going through what one's mother no longer needs
to see what fits and simply to take stock
is what women growing older do.
And not just women, and not clothes alone.
"Into my grave I'll wear that Yes of theirs,"
wrote J. of his acquired Greek nod (our headshake).
Did my mother wear Yes to the grave?
Does Hamlet? How she loved the play. Will I?
The dream, not having reached Act V, won't say,
although the dream-script also writes the waking day.
Nights I go to my temporary grave
bathed in the retrospective tide of books
and in the prospective tide of dreams--
the tide of books goes out, the tide of dreams comes in--
grateful for having seen and read and seen
Hamlet over and over
even in the black box of my skull.
Courage! The lights go down
and each night's theater
flowers into color, motion, sound,
the clenched fist of the dreamer
vainly struggling to take it down.
The closet full of costumes
opened, but only to the sleeper's eye,
just as the dreamplay opened out and out
by folding inward, taking up no space.
Both play and closet
were bigger on the inside than the outside.
The closet was in the play
but the play was in the closet.
Think of Lucy fumbling among fur coats
in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
who finds herself abruptly not in a musty wardrobe
in an abandoned room in the countryside in wartime
but in a frozen forest at night in a magic country.
Yet between the trees she can still just make out
the wardrobe's open door and through it daylight.
It was as I was fingering my mother's
unqueenly sweaters, shirtwaists, jerseys, pants
that the stage lights failed and I found myself
confronting daylight, my disguise half on,
home for a little, poised to leave again.
Reading Rachel's dream-poem had a shocking effect on me. That evening, I dreamed:
I'm a closet girl. In Queen Mother's wardrobe I try all
she kept but never wore--never quite could dare!
Zebra-striped legwarmers slide up my thighs;
a sexy floral dress too thin for this chill fall;
Add a slimwaist coat long as Hamlet's stare, and tie
Creaking on the roof. Again that Danish spy! I'm unsure
See hear and say no evil. Fear spurs cunning--thump the wall
My car, hid round the corner--offstage from Elsinore.
But on the street my dread of her congeals--the very air
turns thick as drown; a bow-wave holds me back. I
can't run! In a beat, she'll see. All fours I drop
But not to knee: scuttle gymnastic, a belly-up crab
Fleeing my mother's house in struggle and fear.
I'm gasping still for life. If not upright.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
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