night thoughts is an exploration of the dreaming mind. It is also an intimate memoir, describing the evolution of a psychoanalysis and the events that gave rise to that treatment. It gives the reader a set of dream poems, then notes and an index of images.
from the poems:
big empty bed
a big empty bed with a canopy
over it & some white sheets & in them
under the top sheet I find his penis
not much like a penis it isn’t smooth
but here it is lying all alone &
I wonder where he is & why he has
left it here to be found by me & why
I have found it here alone without him
& how he feels without it in his pants
I stick it in my pocket what else can I do
& feel it there all ropy & estranged
& grieve for our estrangement & his loss
& for my finding what is still our loss
& for the empty sheets where I find it
another night I find lips on my chest
they’re near the middle on the left-hand side
wings I think & then I see they’re fleshy
not mouthlips these are the lips of the sex
I see that my sex is right there on my chest
like wings but fleshy & with an open place
I think that would mean leading to the heart
then I think yes that’s where the lips should be
the problem is that when I wear a blouse
they make a lumpy place over my breast
& I can’t keep people from noticing
you can wear your heart on your sleeve but not
your sex on your heart & next time I look
they’re flitting around like a butterfly
I apply for a competitive job
in the first cut I receive three flowers
three paper cutouts of flame-red flowers
flame-red flame-red flame-red & all cut out
they are tulips or else parrot tulips
I have two lips this is what I know but
here in the dream I have the three tulips
my two lips speak & when they speak they flame
& when they flame they are parroting me
they may be me speaking back to myself
a bright green parrot speaking with my lips
they could be saying I know you’re cut out
for the flame-red parrot tulip job or
could be saying I know that you were cut
there’s a girl wearing a see-through blouse
the man says you’re wearing a she-through blouse
& she says I didn’t know it was sheer
the next time she looks her breasts are sheared off
this is sheer agony that’s all it is
the big shears lying in the back of her self
& here she is she-through showing herself
all through & through he sees her & she sees
herself cutting herself sheer to the nub
the blouse is sharing something that she has
a beautiful soft offering she has
& here is the nub of the truth of it
why would she shear off the beauty she has
who can never see herself through & through
from the notes:
I had another penis-in-my-pocket dream around the same time as “big empty bed.” In it, my sweetheart’s penis has been cut off, and nothing is left but a couple flaps of loose skin. Then I find his penis in my pocket.
Through my dream associations, I discovered another fold to these dreams: I was the one missing the penis, I was the one longing for sexual love.
As we all do, said my analyst.
lips & tulips & sheer
“lips” seems to belong with the penis dreams—it came at around the same time. All are about important things not being where they should be. My lips are on my chest, right on top of my heart: these are both mouth lips and sex lips—attached to the heart. So here is a way of saying something so simple that everyone knows: erotic love belongs to heart love. I don’t want to be a moralist, but this was an essential truth for me: I stayed alone for so many years, longing to be loved, and longing to make love.
Once late in the analysis, I told my analyst that I didn’t want to have erotic feelings anymore: what good were they, they only made me suffer, they got me nowhere.
He said people have no choice about this, they have longings that need to be fulfilled.
“tulips”: There are three cutout tulips, a word puzzle. There are three, there are three of two lips, they are cut, they are cut out. They are lips. This was one of the early dreams that stayed with me, bothering me. There was my longing to speak—in other words, to write—there was my longing to love—in other words, to kiss. And there was my incomprehensible self-cutting, and being ostracized: cut out. The tulips are red: here is the blood.
It became clear after a while that life’s essential activities are linked to desire, and when desire is cut off, all the rest is also painful and impossible.
The dream passage in “sheer,” with its riff see-through, she-through, sheer and shears, was a later frame of the dream of the jade toe rings (“snakeplant”). There were no shears in the dream: the shears are my association to the words of the dream. There’s a way that both cutting and seeing go ‘through.’
Excerpted from night thoughts, copyright (c) 2013 by Sarah Arvio, by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.