Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Not bad, to have made it into sleep this far,
as though sleep were another country, its agents waiting
to see a passport stamped with dream destinations.
Getting to sleep is one thing, waking up another.
The Buddha, after everything, woke up, and sketched out
a map for awakeners to follow. Even the fish
under glass, underfoot, fish nobody eats even though
they inhabit a restaurant's garden pond, even these
have a chance at waking up, assuming they ever sleep.
The monkey mind fishes around for ladders to climb,
knobs and vines to grasp, to keep going, to never stop,
keeping you awake when you'd rather nap. The Buddha
was a scientist of self, his first experimental subject
his own mirror, discerning in his meditations how to winnow
what works from what doesn't. Having awakened, the same
old stuff. Hard to tell the difference. The way to sleep
is also the middle way, between endless monkey chitter
and the deadness of sleep-inducing drugs. Mostly, I just sit,
not pretending to do more than that. It's enough.
Eventually the clatter fades, even those distant voices
at the end of the row, heard as human hum, with no content.
Like the backlit silhouette of a naked youth emerging
from sparkling sea-glint, gender indeterminate, ambiguous,
recognizably human, that's enough. Clothes make the man
even when the man's not a man, but someone other.
Emerging, are you a boy, are you a girl, and should it matter?
That's just another tin mental box to emerge from.
Buddha's monkey doesn't care; a hole's a hole.
Waking in the morning with the unknown sleeper sharing
your pillow, a dream that pops like those cartoon
thought-bubbles the instant you both awaken. A quick
meeting of eyes before both vanish to their separate days,
or wherever waking leads you.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I discovered a blog yesterday that you may appreciate. It’s called Annandale Dream Gazette and it is basically a repository as far as I can gather for the dreams of poets. I don’t know how they remember them in such detail. I know last night was filled with dreamlets but I could only tell you the gist of the last couple. All the rest have retreated to the shadows now. I like the expression in your poem “scientist of self” – it’s probably not new but it's the first time I’ve heard it.

4:22 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks for the link. I actually knew about it, and have browsed it occasionally.

The conventional wisdom about remembering dreams is that writing them down as soon as you wake up makes that more likely. In my case, it's true. i've written down significant dreams first thing in the morning since I was a teenager; not every dream is significant, or worth recording. But the habit does seem to make it more likely that one remembers one's dreams. And I do remember a lot of detail, anyway, just because I've got a good memory.

The "scientist of self" thing is something I'm sure I've read in the spiritual literature somewhere, but I don't recall where at the moment. It's a great line, regardless.

4:01 PM  

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