Archive for January, 2021


She stood, eyes accusing, arms relaxed in a gentle hug of her matronly form, dumpy printed three-quarter sleeved housedress shrouding a body that abdicated any claim to sexual suggestion.  She was there to monitor me, to make sure that I was as androgynous as she.  It was a standard office accommodation, though no desks were evident, only a pit in the floor where a monumental cut crystal shaft suspended from a steel cable descended, impaling the earth and then withdrawing.  Up and down, up and down it reciprocated — up to be delighted in, down to be deplored.  Matron wasn’t required to actuate any switch, had only to visualize vectored motion, and the massive twinkling hulk moved up or down acknowledging the caprice of her will.

She called me into what seemed to be her office and demanded an accounting.  I hemmed and hawed, a stupid obfuscation.  Why did she ask?  She knew.  Suddenly it occurred to me to leave—out the door, across the lawn, to the edge of the property where a fence stood, unsure of itself.  It was made of stone, but claimed a structure akin to wood, with granite posts that supported concrete slabs secured in between each pair of uprights.  I clambered onto the confused fence, straddling a slab, and slid to the ground.  Dragging skin across the rough concrete hurt, leaving a trail of blood and gravel, but it was a relief connecting to a trustworthy earth.

Safe on solid ground, I paced along the stone fence around to the back of the building where fence shaped slabs lay flat in a tidy row across the expanse.  The closest one resisted my prying but finally succumbed, with a complaining release of suction between its flat under-surface, married to the clay of damp soil.  I inspected the area beneath the slab, and satisfied no entity sheltered there waiting to do me harm, I blessed the silent square of dark earth and lowered the stone back to its rightful place.  So far, so good!  Next I moved to the second in the ordered cohort of rectangles.  It, too, must be raised and inspected to make sure it was just a stone shape and hid nothing fearsome.

I levered up and looked underneath every slab, even though by the time most had been raised, it was obvious that no offending entity would be found.  What persona could lurk to threaten from such an unlikely refuge?  But is that any more whimsical than trolls residing under a bridge, and they have earned a place in our culture?  These questions suggested that each slab might represent an abstract concept that needed to be investigated.  Length versus width is all that’s needed to postulate a slice of reality.  It defines a surface or a rectilinear plane.  Thickness, as third dimension assumed by the concrete, suggests a heft that is dense and weighty, something worthy of being reckoned with.

Dreams could save time just bypassing metaphor, but perhaps they enjoy the game of stashing concept in the belly of a metaphor and watching us struggle with making meaning out of the meal.  Perhaps our brains delight in keeping us entertained during the wee hours trying to figure out what our nighttime selves want to say to our daytime ones.  It would be so much more expeditious to simply complain that my disarticulated understanding of dear old mom would be improved by inspecting some of my ill-founded conceptualizations.  It’s disappointing that in spite of looking underneath each and every stone, nothing was found but an earthworm and a few of Darwin’s ubiquitous beetles.  If my subconscious were more creative, it might have conjectured something truly terrifying.  I might as well just accept being passably sane.

But, not so fast!  What if the weird fence in front of the office were an allusion to the sentences I like to scribe using components that are unnecessarily weighty?  The aquamarine shape oscillating into and out of the solidity of earth, might be setting the rhythm of prosody as it alternatively accepts then rejects precious truth, as mother earth puzzles whether she is being loved or raped.  That, too, fits the shape of this metaphor.

Words matter.  We know they do.  One of my early attempts at publication was a commentary on the Joy of Fishing that I submitted to my local Pennsboro, West Virginia weekly rag.  I had referenced “a worm wriggling on a barb of steel.”  The local editor, in his superior wisdom, changed it to “wiggling.”  His correction changed “the torture of agony” into “a mindless twitching.”  I have never forgiven that desecration of my poesy, nor have I forgotten.  I will carry the dignity of that wriggling nematode to my very grave, defending his cachet, and mine, to the very end.  Perhaps there are multiple layers of metaphor that the subconscious tinkers with as part of this game: Perhaps the androgynous dream female is a mother figure, and maybe she is also a personification of literary criticism, the kind that wants words to be pedestrian so as to convey just the facts, Ma’am—just the facts.  And then she just might be I, my very self, admitting that I just don’t understand.

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