It is not difficult to understand why the ancients believed that dreams were sent to the dreamer by the gods, either as omen or as instruction or as deception. The other morning, though, when I awoke from an extraordinary dream that was replete with exquisite metaphoric images, it occurred to me that perhaps the gods were themselves poets who were enamored of their dream poems and who delivered their grand works to us simply because they enjoyed the creative process and needed a place to publish their opera.
In my dream poem, which I can call “Afraid,” there was one remarkable image that remains with me — an image that seemed to contain all of my life but that certainly evoked a feeling about the things that right now frighten me: becoming more visible, active, and known in the world, both in relation to my writing and to my engagement with others; and seeking a relationship with a man after a devastating second marriage and after being alone for a long time.
The image was genius and not one I am likely to have concocted by myself in a waking state: I am sitting on an examining table draped only in a hospital dressing gown. At another table, a man, unknown to me, is sitting in a chair and is speaking softly, unalarmingly, about this and that. As he talks he gradually becomes invisible, with his head disappearing first, followed by his neck, shoulders, chest, and lower body. Once fully invisible, he continues talking to me, and I am surprised, but not alarmed, by this.
When deconstructed, with all their poesy wrung out of them, metaphors become coarse and earthbound. When entrusted to the gods, however, they conjure for us a higher, deeper level of life that is shrouded in mystery.