Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A new broadcast from Id Radio

Some months ago, in a warm, dry, almost windless Auckland that now seems like it must have existed in the middle of a distant continent, not on this dark and snowy island, I described, in what might charitably be called a prose poem, one of the long and peculiar dreams which are a side effect of the unglamorous drug called tramadol. In the comments thread under my post Keri Hulme recommended dark chocolate to those seeking especially vivid dreams, and Richard Taylor described his unpleasant encounter with tramadol.

Over the past week or so I've commandeered hot water bottles and cats as well as Skyler's half of the duvet in an attempt to sleep warmly. I've been sleeping for longer than normal, and I've noticed that I've been dreaming, night after night, about falling, often with the aid of a parachute or wings, and often out of a very cold sky towards a bright but not necessarily inviting earth. Am I right in guessing that the new recurrent dream is a sort of simulation of my cold and creaky body's collapse into the warmth of bed and the relief of sleep, or should I be getting out Jung and Freud and finding symbolic explanations for those silk chutes and Icarus feathers, not to mention the giant tortoise which seems, for no immediately obvious reason, always to be falling out of the sky beside me?

I wrote the following poem - in bed, of course - about the latest recurrent dream, and added an epigraph from Tomas Transtromer, who was voted the world's greatest living writer by readers of this blog back in 2006. Tomas is still alive, and I'm pleased to see that he's made the bookies' shortlist for this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. Tomas has written wonderfully about cold winter nights, but his fellow Swede Gunnar Ekelof probably has the spookiest poem on the subject. Ekelof's text thrilled and divided commenters here back in 2007, and it still makes my toenails curl up, especially when cold winds are blowing from Antarctica.

The Parachutist

'Waking up is a parachute jump from dreams'
- TT

amongst your squadron
a giant war tortoise
as a dud radio
its leather armour ripped off,
revealing red lines
of the enemy city

for millennia
a moment
you are motionless
then you fall
out of heaven's
humming fuselage

the city's slabs
of darkness
canal boats
barrage balloons
rickety pylons

the chutes snap
open, puff like frogs
the squadron will land
in seventy-three seconds
the tortoise will be turned on its side
the tortoise will be mounted on poles
the tortoise will become
a battering ram

(the bombs came earlier
the bombs come later
the bombs are reduction
the bombs are perfection
the bombs fall
on Byzantium
on Goddodin
on Rekohu
on Rome

(Byzantium is reduced
to a single brick
Rome is reduced
to one wing
of its sewer
Goddodin reduced
to Aneurin's
nipped voice
Rekohu reduced
to a wash-through raft

in the cargo hold in the jumping bay
you were at war
on the ground you will be at war
but while you fall you are neutral
while you fall you are unnatural
like hailstones
like moonlight
like the swan that fires its afterburners
to escape this shrapnel

you close your eyes
you close your eyes to keep the cold
the rising city out
this is a dream you pray
this is a dream
this is a broadcast
from the Id
a secretion
of the pineal gland

you will land from the dream
in your childhood bed
you will wake to find horses
leaning over you
horses nibbling and nuzzling
the patterns on your quilt
patches of moonlight will lie
like saddles on their backs
you will have three minutes to clear
the landing area
before the first bombs fall


Blogger Richard said...

"Over the past week or so I've commandeered hot water bottles and cats as well as Skyler's half of the duvet in an attempt to sleep warmly."

I use hot water bottles also. My cat died in 2006. Duvets, cats, and women do have their uses...

A quick one: not all aspects of tramadol were bad, the net effect though was certain biliousness...but for a while the dreams were enchanting.

11:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:28 am  
Anonymous In defence of Jung and Jung-consciousness said...

Philemon and the other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I had conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, "If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them." It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, or the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be used against me. (Jung, 1965, p.183)

12:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blessed are those who exercise dominion over the earth: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who deport the immigrants: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who agree that the significance of Jesus Christ as the ‘faithful and true witness’ is that He not only witnesses against those who are at war against God, but He also executes them: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who subdue all things and all nations to Christ and His Law-Word: for they shall be filled. Blessed are those who say that those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God must be denied citizenship: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the Calvinist Christians who are the only lawful heirs to the Kingdom: for they shall see God. Blessed are those who know that turning the other cheek is a temporary bribe paid to evil secular rulers: for they shall be called sons of God if they bust their enemies in the chops.

4:22 pm  
Anonymous Sluggo said...

Why not start vetting some of these way off topic comments?

12:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If the paratroopers should take your poem as their regimental anthem, ...

Do resist the temptation to screen comments. (Well, maybe commercial spam could go).
Better the chaos of the public square (without billboard ads) than the tidiness of the literary salon.
I saw a man limping up a Queen St. footpath yesterday, blaring an earnest megaphone message of damnation for those who don't something or other. I wonder if he posts comments here too.


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Some species such as crocodiles & great white sharks did not evolve much in million years because they have little trouble surviving. Only the intelligent hominids could escape from being eaten by lions & tigers and with every generation the smarter ones were able to pass on the genes.

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