Posts Tagged ‘sister’


what new horror lurks
in the near-total darkness
of Llandaff Road? — can
all this ignorance be mine?
— and time only compounds it

My sister commented to me yesterday that our mother has always been a drama queen. I know what she means. Yet I also suspect my dream last night took me back to Llandaff Road which was our family home for four years 1969-72, as an indication or a nudge to remember just how much drama there was back then.



given life itself
is such a two-faced bitch — how
in God’s name did I
ever imagine old age
would bring authenticity?

I experienced some difficulty remembering, once this poem was written, how it connected with last night’s dreams. Eventually it came back to me — I dreamed of a huge seawave washing over myself, my sister and my mother. We were standing together on some kind of jetty. We were very nearly washed into the sea, but not quite. It was an encounter with death, and I was surprised to find my sister screaming with fear, while my mother and I were able to reflect more calmly on what had happened, and to face the idea that, by rights, we should be dead, given the strength of the wave. Awake, I connected this immediately with a conversation my sister and I had had a few weeks ago. We are both finding our mother’s increasing inability to run her own life (at the age of 88) to be very disturbing. I told my sister I had been thinking back to last summer when our mother nearly died, due to fluid on the lungs following a heart attack. The doctor was in two minds whether to refer her to Intensive Care. He warned us that the procedures for saving someone are almost as damaging as the condition itself, and that in old people the result could be that they lose all their independence of spirit and become almost a ‘vegetable’. For that reason, it is sometimes better not to intervene and let nature take its course. However, when we told him that, up to this moment, she had been fully independent and living a full and active life, he felt that meant whatever loss of cognition ensued from the interventions, it would probably leave her with a decent quality of life, just somewhat impaired. In my own language, what I suggested now to my sister was that our mother had been brought back from death a year ago — but we only got some of her back. This I had found helpful to remember when trying to summon the patience to deal with her current dependency. Otherwise we are in denial.

My dream depicts a brush with death, survived by the skin of my teeth. I fell to thinking, awake, about whether I myself ‘ought’ to have ‘died’ at some earlier point in my life. Am I living currently with only a small part of my true faculties? Am I really ‘myself’? I will be sixty years old in a couple of weeks. Have I achieved authenticity? Or am I a fake? And the poem was born.


a bottle of wine
on my kitchen table — waits
for the right moment
— Dionysus immanent —
without whom life would be shit

These poems get more and more difficult to write each morning. Mostly I feel I’m struggling successfully in the end, and producing something of value. None of my dreams last night amounted to much individually, but together they led me into some interesting areas of thought. I dreamed of Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s St Martin’s Lane, where in the seventies I saw the musical Godspell — which I thought of yesterday as I was passing the Apollo Victoria where Wicked is showing — both musicals were written by the same man, Stephen Schwartz. In my dream, the front doors of Wyndham’s were blocked up permanently, but I understood there was access at the back, where I found myself in a large cafe area, full of light, and people from the TV industry. I was working with them, but mostly intent on trying to access pornography online without anyone noticing. I finished reading The Bacchae of Euripides yesterday, in the CK Williams translation, with an introduction by Martha Nussbaum. I enjoyed the introduction almost as much as the text itself. There are almost too many connections to explore here, between dream and waking life. There really is a bottle of wine on my kitchen table. My sister did me a big favour yesterday and I promised her the bottle in return. I think that probably Wyndham’s theatre in the dream, stands for Westminster Cathedral in reality, where I attended Mass yesterday morning. Greek theatre was religious in intent. Catholic liturgy is mostly theatre.


civilisation —
what does it all amount to?
— we’re human beings
unable to escape from
our own terms of reference

This will have to do. I’m not sure whether the point is an obvious one, or incredibly clever and obscure. It’s not my own insight at all, just simply something Jung says, somewhere in his writings, about the human race — that we lack any reference point outside ourselves, and therefore cannot know what we are, since we are a stand-alone phenomenon on this planet, and lack any standard of comparison. Courageously, he makes the point that only some kind of contact with extra-terrestrial beings could provide us with the kind of self-knowledge he has in mind. I dreamed I was discussing my sister, talking about her relationship with a man as ‘platonic’. In this way, awake, I fell to thinking about Plato. What a giant, culturally speaking! Yet he was just a bloke, and many on the planet will not have heard of him, and it’s quite possible if our current civilisation collapses, that he will be forgotten without trace. What will he amount to then? What does any of it amount to? I originally wanted to call human civilisation ‘incestuous’ and ‘narcissistic’ in the poem. But too many syllables, and too deliberately startling: the effect would have been clumsy.

compos mentis

what day is today?
— depends — what if, for instance
alters the fabric of time
reflecting it back at you?

The ability to keep track of time can disappear. My sister and I are watching this happen to my mother. My poem is just a little disingenuous. It’s an attempt to argue that time can be flexible for anyone at any time regardless whether they have ‘dementia’ or not. We all have the evidence for the power of the imagination to bend time. But getting completely lost is another thing. I dreamed last night I was organising somebody’s time, coming to an agreement about a regular pattern of time involving Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Annoyingly, the rest of the content of the dream has disappeared so I have no idea what was to take place on those days.

crazy ugly

geriatric sex —
I accept the craziness
— desire was always
crazy — right from the very
beginning of existence

I woke desperate for orgasm, having been dreaming of sex with an older woman — or indeed — an ancient woman. She was living quite alone in an attic room, accessed by clambering a quaint wooden staircase. My interest in her as a person seemed to focus on the idea that she had been a singer (an unfulfilled ambition of my mother’s in real life). I did feel a lot of interest in her as a person, quite apart from the crazy sexual attraction I was experiencing in the dream. I don’t suppose this link will remain live for very many weeks, but it’s a brilliant review by Adam Mars-Jones, of a book about grieving. I sent it to my sister yesterday, as being relevant to our current struggles to process my mother’s decline into possible dementia, and drawing her attention particularly to the last couple of paragraphs about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, where Mars-Jones refers to Kubler-Ross as ‘the madwoman in the attic’. A reference of course to Jane Eyre‘s Mrs Rochester. But also quite possibly to Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea — a book I still have never read though I must — which retells Jane Eyre from Mrs Rochester’s point of view. Have also realised a probable source for the dream in yesterday’s events — a book by the poet C.K.Williams called Misgivings which I’m currently reading. It’s an autobiography. But it’s mostly a terribly subjective and detailed account of his feelings towards his parents. And there was a brief passage I read last night describing an early, Oedipal, memory of seeing his mother naked:

I’m in a room with my mother. I’m looking not up but straight across at her, so I must be standing, perhaps in a crib. My mother is next to a window; I watch her, though she doesn’t know that I do. A block of yellow sunlight fills part of the room, and when it touches my mother — she’s naked, or partly naked — it turns golden, and then the whole room is glowingly golden. I’m acutely aware of my mother’s body, especially her breasts; surely I’ve seen her breasts before — she nursed me for some weeks — but never with the appalled half-furtiveness with which I behold them now. I seemed to have experienced beauty and shyness and shame all in the same intake of breath.


my own humanity —
it’s a fact, plain and simple
— how can this given
accomplishment I’m born with
be yet so hard to attain?

In my dream, my older sister had turned into a little girl about four years old. I was charmed and delighted, but also concerned about how to reverse the spell and get her back to being an adult. I’ve got hold of a truth, I think, that the little girl represents the most human side of me. I wanted to express the paradox whereby the supreme and ultimate goal of life (for me) is to become more human — while after all I simply am human anyway. So I’m striving after a goal which is right there under my nose. Yet it refuses to give up its unattainable and mysterious and just plain difficult character.