Did I dream this?
Listen to Marigold. 07 Marigold
I awoke from a strange dream just before dawn. It was Nov 3rd 2005. I know this because I wrote the dream down in much detail using my laptop. I can see the date the file was created.
I wrote it down cause it seemed like my subconscious had been processing something. My head or rather my brain seemed like it had been churning a vast multi axis array of data all night. My head felt hot. And i was hungry and exhausted. Because of this I thought it might be important.
It wasn’t as coherent as what you will read below. It wasn’t linear either. It was a few big semi-continuous scenes. And a series of fragments. I wrote them down in the best order that I could. To try and make them make sense. The main points were these:
In the dream I knew I was dying. I had a brain tumor that was affecting an area of my brain that made it difficult for me to find the proper words when i spoke. The other key part of the dream was that I went to Ecuador to find my ex-wife (who was not my ex-wife in real life). There were a series of apocalyptic events while in ecuador ; an earthquake, a civil war and a perhaps a tsunami. I was often with a tall african man who In my notes I dubbed Queequeg (after the fictional character in moby dick). At other times I was guided by a Turkish or Arab man who wore an eye patch. A repeated scene: I was underwater trying to bring to the surface this Incan artifact. A golden statue of an animal that looked like a koala.
Because much of this seemed so specific I started googling things. Like “Ecuador” or “Arabs in South America” “Golden Koala” and “Civil War Andes”.
Although the mystery of the dream never really did present itself to me, something surprising began to happen. An alternate narrative began to form as I googled these phrases. I began to incorporate it into my notes.
Previously I had noted that draft emails composed in the gmail browser would often have provocative, funny or unusual Google adwords links on the the side of the gmail window. Remembering this I began to drop whole sentences even paragraphs into a draft email. Save it. Close it. Then i would reopen and look at the ads. At this point the narrative began to explode into this rather long… Poem? Short story? Treatment for the next Cohen Brothers movie? I don’t know what this is.
At one point I thought that I would make an album or something out of this. I wrote the first song. It’s this song. It’s called Marigold. And as much as I like this song, I don’t think an album of pop music could ever come close to the wonderful weirdness of this bit of prose that I dug out of my googled subconscious.
neon clouds swirled above the alcohol like a flame
yet i followed her
for the health of my disease hung in the balance
i had no choice
i flew southward into a chaotic metropolis.
i rode in taxis and stuttering tramcars
I rode in jitneys up steep hillsides
dirt trails through villages
the chaos dwindled
the dramamine and cane liquour shared with strangers
i drew closer
and knew i was dying.
at the last town a friendly hotel
in the ruins of a conquistador redoubt
i shared a room with a cyclops
i slept with a knife and an antique pistol
we never spoke except in the rowdiness of the bar
i shouted in english he in turkish
yet i came to understand he was a bandit
who likewise lost an eye to a greek sailor
languid, drifting, i was without purpose
days months or years passed
i have no recollection
i had lost my purpose
i knew i was dying but even that i postponed.
alas an unknown offense was committed
a huddled circle, murmurs from the shabby tea room
a quick glance over the shoulder from the bandit
it was settled
i was to be exiled.
the desk clerk obliged me with a guide
his name was queequeg
jolly and earthy
but always darkened when my flask appeared
and these days at the shadowless noon
he took me to high valleys
to my singlemindedness
and at last it appeared
we stood on a ridge and queequeg pointed down
into an improbable green valley
like ahab i limped towards her white tent
the grass beating arythmic drum brushes on denim
queequeg stayed on the ridge counting his pesos
then he watched us and waited
she greeted me happily
the tent was zippered
at dusk when we emerged
queequeg was gone
we built a fire and sat close together
I would awake in the tent to bright sun.
to my stillness
the sea of grass eddying quietly
the andean cold only a hint in the wind
and always she was away
with the aboriginals
in their high villages
returning only at night
awakened by her warmth and moist breath
i woke before her one morning
the malaise had returned
I knew it would stay this time
i drank from my flask
the earth rumbled below me
a curious thing
Appearing its way along
like an aardvark in the grass
a vectored wave and then another
what was that? she asked from the tent
that same day we packed and moved higherinto the mountains.
oblivious to those thousands buried alive under mudbrick
for the radio had been abandoned when the batteries quit
within weeks we ceased speaking full sentences in english
or any language.
then we lost even the single words
things were no longer named
nothing was discreet there were just areas
yet we lived
grunting and pointing
like the german tourists in themarketplace in quito
the world without names was curious
a pull tab glinting in the sun,was also the sun,
and the sun was also a smell from my childhood
that ended with watering eyes a deep and powerful sadness
all things ended there
I should be happy i thought.
eating guinea pigs as snack food
in the high villages
still the lurking mass metastasized and blocked the sun.
I lived in the shadows
when the militia men and teen soldiers visited
i may have been happy
which was also the sound of the grass left behind,
and also the burning taste of the L’aguardiente they traded with me.
our incan hosts feared them
weltering like smallpox blisters
nevertheless stoic they donned their bowler hats
an english court
formally and coldly played their strange waltzes
meters cut neatly in half, by duples, martial drums
other times the shining path in black masks,
their ages impossible
their violence implicit.
i shared our dwindling grape with them
she was aroused by their danger and violence
we always retired early to our hut
They drank and took delight listening to our couplings.
after the earthquake i remember the C5-As
Enormous but from our vantage above they were playful toys
circling otters on the sea of thick air
fortified with smoke rising from the ruined city.
smoke rose always in this land
everywhere, which was also her hair
which was also a certain smell from childhood
which was different than thatother smell
but ended with watering eyes and the deep sadness
I captain ahab now drunk on fermented quinoa
In desperation took a vow
to begin speaking again
it was awkward
i would shout”likewise a tit is better than nothing”.
The villagers didn’tunderstand but laughed with me
as days passed I found other crooked phrases
i shouted them in the village
or whispered them to her at night
“never ignored.. . but never more has been barked”
she stroked my hair and rubbed my stiff leg
which about the time of talking had developed a tremour
I knew i was dying
and that was all
there she stayed
in villages of altitude sickness
for a nobler cause than I
like a deep sea diver who surfaces to fast
i had left the continuous wordless realm,
and entered into the discreet world of language too fast
noxious gases had formed and chemically bonded with the words
new molecules of speech were born
twisted strands and double helixes
an alchemy of sorts
i could only share my secrets with other alchemists
the rhyme for orange
the strange beauty of the word “vacuum”
one night she sent me away with the militia men.
she sobbed and spoke in perfect non crooked english.
i was dissappointed she did not share my gift
i cried and was angry
in the valley of the whispering grass a trap was sprung
shining path rose black against the moonless sky
i laid down in the grass and listened to echoes of bullets
the echos stopped
the shining path walked around and slit the throats of the wounded and dying
when they came to me i waited for the knife
instead water from a cup.
a bit of bread
“vacuum” said one of the hooded
at dawn i woke in the eddying grass
surrounded by the still surprised militiamen
though of course they were still dead
perverse relief i had not dreamed this
improbably queequeg was on the ridge where i left him
many many months ago
queequeg spoke of the earthquake
the city was dangerous and ruined
full of armed gangs and american marines
there was a civil war
although he offered to take me to the conquistador hotel bar
to see the cyclops
i shook my head to decline
along the coast to queequegs home
an old colonial port city
curious blacks and melungeons
with japanese surnames
an endless circle of bars
queequeg lived amongst the colourfully painted tin
in the tidal flats along the beach
each morning he took a crowded bus to the north
shrimp farms amidst the dead mangroves
disapproving witness to a bloom of nitrates fingering to the sea
while i was drunken abuelita on the bus
proffered seats and gently led off
the bus cobbled away into the old quarter slums
i limped to each bar in succession
these a legacy of a bauxite boom
in the previous century
grave nations preparing for carnage and war had found this gentle place
brought her to flowering
and then abandoned her.
an apartment building on the bluff above
built to resemble a ship
looked to sea
only now as an old maid was one of her suitors to return.
embarrassed by it’s continued youth and virility
she pretended to have forgotten him
she looked away to the sea.
at night marines filled the bars
i had ceased speaking
they called me the mute, gently mocked me and bought me drinks.
they helped me into the converted hearse
a cab driven by one of queequegs uncles or cousins
the seasons were a gentle wobbling
barely perceptable but at the equinox a rotation occurred
the first marines bawdy
these were mean conscripts
the first night they beat me unconcious
i awoke after some days in a military hospital
my countrymen were like aliens
they smelled of milk and disinfectant
they told me i was dying
i tried to sign a document
i was given cash by a civillian with a terrible mustache and reflective glasses
i was assigned a congenial MP and a wheelchair
he talked of affairs i knew nothing about nor cared
an oil pipeline had been sabotaged the day before
the crisis in my former country
he took me to queequegs colourful tin
but i refused
at last he understood and carefully wheeled me into the don quixcote
with its yellowing bullfight posters and blaring television
that night i dove into that lake of drear
swimming along the bottom i found a golden dead koala
i knew this was my alchemist prize
all the crooked phrases had unraveled the singularity
i clutched it to me before the blackness hit
i was kicked by a barmaid
she was shouting in spanish
my tattered denims were warm with urine
the tile of the floor was cool on my cheek
this soothed me
a crowd gathered around me as if i was dying
i clutched the koala to my chest
no one would take it.
©2005 David Lowery