Posts Tagged ‘dead’


….and I would argue
for a return to the old
cosmology — Earth
at the centre of all things —
for this is where we are, yes?

I doubt I can explain this coherently. First let me describe my dream last night. I was in the centre of a large city. Although it was impossible, in the dream there was a planet not much smaller than the earth, located in the centre of the city, and a very skilful pilot was flying an aircraft or spacecraft, in a long elliptical orbit round the planet. Somehow he did not collide with the buildings of the city. The idea seemed to be to use the gravitational field of the planet (or the impetus of the orbit) like a sling shot as the point of departure for a longer journey elsewhere. Meanwhile I was worrying in case the mass of the orbiting spacecraft might in some way upset the equilibrium of the planet at the centre.

Secondly, let me sketch some thoughts I was having yesterday. In many spiritual traditions, there is the idea that the dead need to be able to let go of their attachment to things earthly and move towards ‘the light’ (whatever that means). This idea is found in spiritualism, in Tibetan Buddhism, and in Jung’s ‘Septem Sermones ad Mortuos’. I was thinking yesterday how absurd this is. Surely this life, on this earth, is worth every bit as much attention on the part of the dead, or more, than life in ‘heaven’. For me, this is similar to another idea I entertain periodically: the idea of telepathic communication with aliens. If aliens exist (probabilities are high that they do) and if their intelligence is superior to ours, they are far more likely to be encountered in our minds than in our skies. And in that case ‘here’ (this planet) is somehow not different from ‘there’ (their planet). And ‘we’ must be ‘them’. In that case, what seem to us purely human dramas — on this planet, in our families, in our minds — are in fact, unbeknown to us, providing an arena where ‘they’ act out their dramas.

In that sense, we are the centre of the cosmos. Or at least the centre lies, if not exactly in ‘us’, in the unknown foundations of our consciousness.

There are also resonances in all of this, for me, touching on my relationship with Liz and the way I have made her the centre of my universe.



above all, Wisdom
to me — means acceptance of
my own helplessness

Last week I had a conversation at work about Russia, and I enthused briefly about St Basil’s Cathedral which knocked me out completely when I saw it in 1986. In my dream last night, I was in Moscow with St Basil’s in the background, and seemed to be trying to get back to Europe. My method of transportation was to be towed in flight by a flying woman who was well disposed towards me. But we nearly set out in the opposite direction by mistake and were only saved from this by the spirit of my dead maternal grandfather who intervened and set us in the right direction. The idea ‘grandfather’ resonates for me with the Jungian archetype of the ‘Wise Old Man’. I don’t know whether my grandfather was a particularly wise person. I don’t know whether I am. But I like thinking about what wisdom means to me, and this poem states it simply.

staying is a journey

late at the airport —
if I miss my flight, what then?
remain where I am?
— instinctively I reach for
my wallet — but it’s empty

Best I could do with a very imperfectly remembered dream, in which my flight was at eleven o’clock and it was becoming increasingly clear there were too many delays on the journey to the airport. I was going to have to pay for a whole new ticket home. In the dream I assumed I had the money, but I took some poetic licence, and chose to challenge that assumption when it came to the poem, because it felt to have been made so very thoughtlessly, in the dream. The idea of fixing everything with money just seemed entirely suspect. The flight time of 11.00 clearly chimes with some thoughts I’ve been having about death and the dead. If I have an imaginative relationship with ‘the dead’ is that the same as having an imaginative relationship with death itself? Eleven o’clock is the time when we remember the dead on Remembrance Day (11th November). Taking off in an aeroplane suggests the event of death. If my flight represents my death, how can I ever be late for my own death? I like the idea that I just accept being where I am, without hankering after flying (dying). I watched a film called My Life Without Me last night, which probably provoked these thoughts, as it is about a girl who gets diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 23.

the keening

pouring out of me
like song — my limitless grief
exceeds what I know
— a deep, spiritual love
possessing me completely

An extraordinary dream in which I was weeping for the death of a colleague. What an emotionless person I must be in real life, for such richness of emotion as in this dream, to feel so unfamiliar and unwonted! Actually back in the eighties I wept just like this a couple of times when I was very drunk. The colleague who was dead in the dream, figured in a similar dream a couple of years ago, where she was dead because I had been complicit in her murder. In waking life, I told her about that dream and she was quite upset to have been told, and it caused a certain degree of friction between us for a day or two. I guess I can be insensitive. I lack imagination sometimes, to envisage other people’s emotions. Or indeed my own. The word ‘keening’ was a late addition to my vocabulary. I like the dignity of it. I had never heard the word until I was in my forties. I just looked up its origin: it’s from the Irish caoinim ‘I wail’.


the winter is cold —
I help myself to my dead
grandfather’s waistcoat
— but what use against my own
coldheartedness is clothing?

My mother’s father was one of the most warmhearted people in my entire family, although he also had an analytical side to him, able to stand back and reason systematically. My father on the other hand can have a certain coldness about him. These two men never found a way to dialogue — or not that I ever saw. Sometimes I feel like my own personality is that dialogue that never happened. Not just in terms of warmth and coldness. Having witnessed such a drastic failure of communication between the two men closest to me in the family as I was growing up, I still live with some kind of futile wish to see that relationship healed, even though my grandfather is dead since 1986 and my father will be 90 this year. I carry them as parts of me.

pencil scribblings #2

If there’s one question more than any other hangs over my whole life — it’s the question of how do I relate to the opposite sex. What does it mean to love a woman. What do I think about women, what do I feel about them.

This question, or set of questions, is as important to me now I’m 59 as it was when I was 19. Indeed, my struggles in this respect go back even earlier. All the way right back to early childhood. There were disturbing sexual dreams at the age of five, where I seemed to be engaging in coitus, even though I didn’t know the word and hadn’t had the mechanics of sex explained to me.

In fact I used to have three different recurring dreams at around that age:

1) I was petrified silly by the dim figure of a witch at the foot of my bed. My dream had me lying in the bed where in reality I lay asleep. In my dream however, I was awake and only pretending to be asleep. I thought that if the witch believed I was asleep, she wouldn’t harm me: so I kept my eyes tight shut while she threw me around in the air like a ball. Even though I was scared, I also enjoyed the fear — the intense adrenalin rush. I remember feeling as though I could will myself to have this nightmare because I enjoyed it.

2) I was the leader of a marauding band of soldiers or sailors. We had captured a large number of women and we lined them up naked in order to have sex with them. The word is rape I suppose. But the odd thing was, it felt as though I were somehow passive — as though the woman were controlling my desire. I had no clear visual sense, of what a woman’s naked body was like — either to look at or to touch. It was more as though I just came together with her in some vague, undefined way involving an erection on my part, and the most intense desire and excitement imaginable. Again, as with the first dream outlined above, I would wake drenched in sweat and with the feeling as though I had somehow chosen to repeat this dream again because I enjoyed it.

3) The third recurrent dream around the age of four or five or six, was of being involved in some kind of war, on the battlefield. Except that I wasn’t fighting at all. I was pretending to be dead, because I thought in this way to escape getting killed.

Thinking about these dreams in the latter half of my life, I noticed there are certain common themes. Passivity is common to all three, and, in dreams (1) and (2), this is passivity in relation to women (which also entails an enjoyable adrenalin rush). Dreams (2) and (3) both involve the army. And common to dreams (1) and (3) is the idea of remaining safe by feigning either death or sleep.

I told dream (1) to a Jungian analyst in 1977. He said it represents my feelings towards my mother. But I have never told the other two dreams to anyone. All three would seem to betoken a certain cowardice which I’m not proud of. Even though of course dreams in general are outside our conscious control and these dreams in particular came upon me at a very early age.

Viewed psychoanalytically, a determination to keep my eyes closed — to appear asleep or dead — must surely suggest some kind of refusal to become conscious? Some kind of situation where I must be prone to take refuge in deliberate unconsciousness. This sounds very clever. It even sounds, to my ears, incredibly important. And yet it also feels like a wasted insight, because I don’t know what to do with it.

what use?

reaching the point where
my own unreality
bewilders me so
— it’s like being eleven
eggs short of the full dozen

Distress yesterday from spending time with my mother and sister, ending up doubting everything about myself and my assumptions. What is a fully functional human being? Why do we require and expect efficiency and effectiveness from our fellow human beings? Including or especially ourselves. Why does my sister not have more patience with my mother? What is this demand on my part for patience from my sister? I dreamed of a cat, on the one hand, and a fluffy toy for cats on the other. The fluffy toy contained the faint essence of what was once a cat, or perhaps the soul of a dead cat. The toy purred when it was placed next to the real cat. Although it was scarcely a cat at all, the toy was experiencing more fulfilment from closeness to the real cat, than the cat was, from closeness to the toy. Although, that said, the real cat noticed the toy and seemed to like it. Quite an upsetting dream! The real cat is perhaps my sister, and the fluffy toy my mother. Sometimes my mother seems so far away from her younger self, she is like a memory of herself. In my poem, I’m just describing exactly how I feel as I come to write the poem. Disorientated and full of self-doubt, from yesterday. Maybe the fluffy toy is me. What do we ever know about ourselves? What does all our efficiency and effectiveness, and patience, amount to?