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Uncertain Oneiromancy

dreamed 1993? by Denise Levertov

I spent the entire night leading a blind man
through an immense museum
so that (by internal bridges, or tunnels?
somehow!) he could avoid the streets,
the most dangerous avenues, all the swift
chaotic traffic . . .              I persuaded him
to allow my guidance, through to the other
distant doors, though once inside, labyrinthine corridors,
steps, jutting chests and chairs and stone arches
bewildered him as I named them at each swerve,
and were hard for me to manoeuver him
around and between. As he could perceive nothing,
I too saw only the obstacles, the objects
with sharp corners; not one painting, not one carved
credenza or limestone martyr.        We did at last
emerge, however, into that part of the city
he had been headed for when I took over;
he raised his hat in farewell, and went on, uphill,
tapping his stick. I stood looking after him,
watching as the street enfolded him, wondering
if he would make it, and after I woke, wondering still
what in me he was, and who
the I was that took that long short-cut with him
through room after room of beauty his blindness
hid from me as if it had never been.


"Uncertain Oneiromancy" is one of Levertov's late poems, published in Sands of the Well (New Directions, 1996). I don't know exactly when she dreamt it, but 1993 seems likely, give or take a year.

Her title suggests her own interpretation of the dream. Isn't this not-blind-but-as-if-blind groping how we usually stumble through dreams, and how we interpret them, waking? We may grasp immediacies, but our horizon's close in. Might as well be blind.

I don't find Levertov's idea far-fetched. Indeed, I'd argue her interpretation isn't just her waking mind finding a lesson in the dream; I'm sure the dream intended to comment on dream interpretation. Dreams are quite capable of commenting on themselves, on dreamwork, on how we get lost in the task at hand--even generosity--until we're blind to dreams' beauty--which may indeed be, as the dream hints, their real message.

I'll go further. To a literate dreamworker, and Levertov surely was, the dream's choice of imagery prods her to realize it's about dreaming itself. Groping through a labyrinthine underworld full of antique art... come on, it's more Jungian than Jung's own dreams!

--Chris Wayan

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