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Bridge, Moon, Professor, Shoes

Dreamed 2003? by Dorothea Tanning

Slept dreams, they say, take just a few seconds
no matter how long they are. Or how far

I walked on that bridge of spider silk
with the moon beside me like a friend.

Her light trapped us in a radiance of bliss so
pure, hours weren't hours, or minutes minutes

as we passed my old lecture hall, its professor
stopping in the middle of his question "Can

someone here tell me -- ?" to stare at us as we
floated along, my insouciance blurring a little

with a sense of guilt. Had I a right to this?
Could such joy be mine for free? If I had

a purpose -- say, shoes. Find shoes. On earth
we don't walk on air -- not like this windless

void riding underfoot, its force backing me
into the immensities, their black nowhere.

Such bouncing's tiresome. Where's the bliss?
The moon reaches for my arm. I jerk away.

What a pie-face she is in her chalky pallor.
Why did that professor turn his back on me?

Oh, if I find shoes (size seven) they won't be
on too soon to get me home, home       home.

--Dorothea Tanning

Tanning is best known as a surrealist painter, but now, in her nineties, she's turned to (often equally surreal) writing. This dream is from her first poetry collection, A Table of Content (Graywolf Press, 2004).

In the first couplet Tanning mentions a still-prevalent belief that dreams take place in a burst--subjective hours in objective seconds. In recent decades, electroencephalography, rapid eye movement tracking, and lucid dream experiments have all confirmed that dreams happen in realtime. Or at most, video time--compressed, to the point, skipping past the dull bits. But dreamtime is no illusion. What happens, happens.

So what happens here? A change of heart, that's for sure. A funny one. Tanning turns away from a magic flight with the moon, to her earthly professor and... shoes? Women have praised "retail therapy" (shoe-shopping!) as a better antidepressant than psychoanalysis and its patriarchal frustrations. Cheaper, too. But what's Tanning rejecting here? Well, she's been a surrealist all her long life--flying with the moon, skimming above earth, baring her, um, sole. I guess you can get bored even soaring with archetypes, and just want, sometimes, to go shopping. On Earth.

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: flying - the moon - surreal dreams - puns - dream advice - poems - shopping - Tanning has a classic nightmare: Pursued, I Ran into the Barn

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