Walking Through Glass, Dreams and Writing

In this Weblog, I hope to explore dreams, poetry (and other writing), and the connections between dreaming and writing. I hope you will participate in a dialogue on the subject. Please DO post comments.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Lesson and the Game

The Lesson and the Game
digital composit of images harvested from internet
click image to view larger.

The Lesson and the Game

My first round of practice teaching occurs at a mixed-race, inner-city school.  Most of the kids are black and the teacher is also black and male.  The two student teachers are my friend and classmate, Hank (Henry Phalange) and me.  Hank, biracial, is equally at home with whites or blacks and can switch speech and mannerisms in the blink of an eye.  I, on the other hand, in spite of having been here for some time, have trouble making out the speech of some of the children.

The lesson for the day is trees, tree ecology and tree identification.  We study trees in math, social studies, reading and science.  During science, Mr. Hollinger passes out leaves to each student, and to Hank and me. The leaves seem to be hand-carved out of ebony or some other dark expensive looking wood, but they also feel very strong.  Each leaf is on a black chain and can be worn around the neck.

Hank’s is an American elm, Mr. Hollinger’s a white ash and mine a sugar maple.  Mr. Hollinger’s looks fragile, with its separate leaf-lets, but I finger it, and it seems sturdy.  Chantelle has a big-tooth aspen, Tyrone a cottonwood, Egyptia a red oak, DeShaun a white oak, Jonas an American beech, Micah a chestnut and so on.  We talk about the characteristics of the trees and walk in the new school arboretum so that each child can find his or her tree.  We learn three things about each tree, as we go around, and then, when we stop at the end, the kids each recite the three things about their own tree and the other kids repeat them.

My three things are that we can make maple syrup and candy from the sugar maple, that they are used as shade trees, and that they are part of the beech-birch maple hemlock climax forest in this area.  Also we say the Latin name, for me, Acer sacharum.  I didn’t learn the Latin names of trees until I got to college, so it seems strange to be teaching them to these kids.

When we come back in, the girls in the class are sent next door to Miss Johanna’s room and her boys are sent to our room.  Mr. Hollister pulls down the room-darkening shades, leaving only a slit of light visible at the bottom of three of the shades.  The room falls into darkness.  He directs our class sit on one lab table and the other class sit on the other.  Then he says we’re going play a game called pickpocket. I am immediately concerned, and wish I had been sent over to Miss Johanna’s with the girls.  I am guessing they are not playing pickpocket.

The object of the game is to acquire as many leaves as possible.  He does not say if the leaves will be returned, and I feel fearful of losing my own leaf and of other kids losing theirs and being sad.  I think that this is an inappropriate game, and I am unhappy about it.  However, I am the student teacher, and at this point am only observing, so I keep my opinions to myself.

When Mr. Hollister blows the whistle and the game starts, I back into a corner and hope that everyone forgets me.  The room falls into pandemonium, kids dashing everywhere, hooting and laughing.  Unlike me, they seem to be happy.  At one point, a whole crowd of them sweeps past me, and someone grabs one my arms and I twirl helplessly into the running mass of kids and bang against a lab table, not hard enough to hurt, but I am surrounded by bodies moving, thumping and laughing.

Then I realize my leaf is gone.  I pat myself down and I definitely don’t have it.  I feel a sense of loss and grief and also anger and something akin to hatred for being forced to play this stupid game. It seems to go on and on and I make my way back to the corner and sulk.  I have no desire to touch male students in the dark searching for hidden leaves.  The whole idea seems ludicrous and inappropriate to me.

Finally, Mr. Hollister blows his whistle and the game stops.  Kids turn on the lights, pull up the shades, and hold up their trophies—the ones who have trophies.  The others stand back, but they don’t look sad.  They look surprisingly cheerful.  Hank comes over to stand by me.  He is grinning ear it ear.  “I got your leaf,” he says, and holds out his hand.  I stare at all the stuff in his hand.  “Here,” he says, “take it,” and pushes his hand closer. 

Hanging from his hand is my leaf, my camera, my necklace, and laying in his hand is my cell phone, my wallet, a pen, a paint-brush in a metal tube, my glasses.  Everything is intact.  I look in my wallet and my money and cards seem to be there. 

Hank looks pleased with himself, and happy.  He seems to think I should praise him. But I feel violated and sad.  I wonder if he or anyone else has taken anything from me and not returned it.  Something I will miss later, when it is too late.  We stand staring at each other, our face inches apart.  When he leans and gives me a small kiss on my cheek, I steel myself against drawing back, not from Hank, who I love, but from this terrible game and his acceptance of it.

Dream April 5, 2014

Sugar maple leaf by me,
Mary Stebbins Taitt
How does this make you feel?  What does it remind you of?

It may have been influenced by Reality TV, movies and books, such as Hunger Games.  I have fearfully been avoiding seeing or reading any of them, but they leak into my consciousness anyway.  I guess I am a big wimp.  I hate even the idea of them.

I worked for a number of years teaching in inner city schools, but never played a game called pickpocket.  I have no idea where that came from except perhaps because I have jury duty coming up and worry about the pickpockets downtown.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Don’t Read This Poem (An Invitation)

Don't Read This Poem (An Invitation)


My daughter calls from the other room; she's found a family dead.

All dead, all but one small baby hidden among the bedding.  A family

is dead in my room too, leaving another orphaned baby.


Don't read this poem.  My teachers told me, don't say that.

Don't mention you're writing a poem.  As if the reader,

dear reader, won't notice.  And don't say anything weird.


Over the top , they would say.  There are rules in poetry.

I always seem to break them.  Perhaps I also shouldn't mention

that I am writing this on red


paper.   Blood red.  What I picked from the scrap bin, coincidence

or synchronicity.  By the time you see this, though, the red

will have turned to white the way a face loses its color in death.


Two families dead, two orphaned babies.  But they aren't people.

We're in the animal-care rooms in the museum's basement.

The babies are mice, one tan, one maroon, both just starting


on the first hint of hair, eyes sealed shut.  Orphaned.

Of course, they will die without their mothers; we all know that.

They're not weaned.  But I am, so why the fuss?  


Okay, I'm an orphan.  But, I'm also a mother.  I put the babies

in my blouse to nurse from my own breasts.  Could you just not

read this?  I know you'll disapprove, but that's what I did.


It's sort of circular, really, since I'm the orphan now.

But I'm sixty, my parents both dead at eighty-three.   No infant, I.

In the dream, the babies grow to the size and shape of ferrets


and move inside my silk blouse like snakes, undulating, sinuous.

In my black velvet skirt and blood-red jacket, I hide myself

from everyone so these babies can nurse and live.


I am the orphan baby.  I am the snake maiden, I am the mother,

I am the grandmother.  I am as tiny as a newborn mouse

and I am the crone slipping into the grave. 


But you knew all that already, and knew the dual nature

of my Geminian twins, the yin and yang of me.  Even,

perhaps, the strange depths to which I'd sink to survive this grief.


But did you remember that you had a breast and milk

you could offer an orphan?  If you've gotten this far,

you could hold me.



Mary Stebbins Taitt

070206c, 1st Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Here is the original dream:

Nursing Orphans and Outside Approval, Dream Sunday, February 04, 2007


Sara and I are in animal care and discover that in two cages of mice in two separate rooms, the mother mouse and all the babies but one (each) are dead.  She discovers one in one room and I discover the other in the other room.   The babies are very small.  They've just begun growing hair.  One is yellowish tan and the other sort of maroon-colored.  I take them into my blouse to nurse them at my own breasts so that they won't die.


The scene cuts to a huge science fair.  I am the head judge or some other very important person.  I am wearing a wine-colored velvet jacket, a long black velvet skirt and a wine & black silk blouse.   The baby mice have grown to the size and shape of young ferrets and are living inside my blouse, not weaned yet.  They move sinuously, bulging the blouse oddly.  I worry about offending people with the snake-like babies nursing inside my beautiful clothes.   I worry about it so much that I find a private place to sit, assist the babies in their nursing, and worry about what I should do.



This is the second dream in two nights that involve nurturing young of other species.


The dream poem I wrote yesterday was made of dreams from two different night—the monkey dream and rose petal dream were originally two separate dreams.


I don't see much potential in this dream for a poem.   If the monkey dream was weird, this one is weirder and more "unacceptable." 

Also Posted by Mary Stebbins Taitt to DreamlitG at 2/06/2007 10:54:20 AM and to Half-formed.  I wanted to post it HERE, but kept doing it in the wrong place, DUH!  Sorry!  If you read all my blogs (fat chance), I apologize for the repetition!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Rose Petals and Snowflakes

At the edge of the woods, I call my monkey.

Stand and call, without much hope. It’s not a pretty

woods, not a forest you’d see in a painting

full of repeating tree trunks and slants of light.

It’s a tangled mess, impenetrable.

And it’s winter. Snow lies over the ground

and on the branches of every twig and vine.

It’s been months since Mr. Grim went missing

and I think, “what could a monkey find to eat

out there in winter? There’s nothing.”

But I stand and call, not even loudly, since it seems

so hopeless. Just a plaintive cry, more like a child

calling for her mother, more like I was the one lost

and not the monkey. But then, there he is,

scampering through the woods, leaping up into my arms.

He’s disheveled, hair mussed and full of twigs and snowflakes.

He’s grown. He’s the size of a child, the size I was

at the time I first remember my mother pulling petals

from a faded rose, tossing them high into the air

and letting them fall around me, cascading, twisting

back and forth like pink geese landing on a clear blue pond.

Not tepid pink—fuchsia, hot saturated pink. And remember

how much bluer the skies were then? So deeply, serenely blue.

A blue that could swallow us, and often did.

Not the faded skies the politicians give us now, full of ozone

and acid rain. I walk back toward home carrying Grim

on my hip, his small arms around my neck, his hands

clutching me. We stop to pull tiny rose petals

from tiny white roses and toss up four handfuls. They flutter

down among snowflakes against a sky lost in a blizzard white.

When I wake up and don’t have Grim, I’m confused.

I think I have to hurry home where Mr. Grim is still lost

and rescue him from the woods. It’s a while before I’m awake

enough to realize he’s gone. Grim’s dead; my mother’s dead.

And there are no white roses blooming in this winter’s snow.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

For Margaret and Grim

1st: Saturday, February 03, 2007



Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Space Woman

Space Woman lands in Hamlin Marsh, self-portrait for Monday Artday. Photo by Mary Stebbins. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Not a poem

Not a Poem:  Patrick Lawler follows St. Francis Down the Freeway

                Because it's a solar oven, I sit in the car with door open.  I read a Patrick Lawler poem from his new book, Feeding the Fear.  Then I read another.  While I am reading, clouds of shadow pass over the page, roiling and twisting.  Heat radiation.  The sun bends through it reaching toward the words. They escape like smoke.  I tumble into the hooting coos of mourning doves.  This is not a poem, I say.  This is mortality.  We dream the world solid.  I bang on it with my fist.  See, I say to no one in particular.  To Dante, to Persephone, to you, see?  It's not a dream.  It's too hard to be a dream.  Too difficult.  It's real.   My hand hurts, and the banging echoes in my head.  I wake up.  It's morning.  I brush my teeth, start frying eggs. Then I wake up again.  I'm in this car and it is driving down the road by itself.  No one is steering.  The car goes faster and faster.  Careens down a hill.   But I'm okay.  I'm reading this poem by one of the Patrick Lawlers, reading through shimmering shadows, through heat and dove song, and I know this is just a dream.  Mary Stebbins, 060328

Not a Poem:  Patrick Lawler follows St. Francis Down the Freeway

                The car's a solar oven; I leave the door open.  Inside, feet hanging out, I read a poem from Patrick Lawler's new book, Feeding the Fear.  Then another.  Clouds of shadow pass over the page as I read, twist and weave.  Heat radiation.  The sun bends through it reaching toward the words. They escape like smoke.  I tumble into the coos of mourning doves.  When I stand again, they gather on my arms and shoulders in pairs.  This is not a poem, I say.  This is mortality.  We dream the world solid.  I bang on it with my fist.  See, I say to no one in particular.  To Dante, to Persephone, to you, see?  It's not a dream.  It's too hard to be a dream.  Too difficult.  Too real.   The thumping hurts my hand and echoes in my head.  I wake up.  It's morning.  I brush my teeth, start frying eggs. Then I wake up again.  I'm in this car and it is driving down the road by itself.  It goes faster and faster.  Careens down a hill.  In most dreams, I'd be terrified, but I'm okay.  I'm reading this poem by one of the Patrick Lawlers, reading through shimmering shadows, through heat and dove song, and I'm safe because I know this is just a dream.  Mary Stebbins, 060328b

I am certain of nothing but the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination- John Keats

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Sudden Change of Seasons

A Sudden Change of Seasons

My father disappears
in stacks at a crowded bookstore.
The aisles echo,

now oddly empty.
Calling his name,
searching in ancient

Greek and Latin, in Shakespeare
and George Bernard Shaw,
my mother and I bump

into each other
It is later
than we thought.

We missed
the downtown bus.
Eat lunch and wait

in the sun.
Between planters of petunias and golden
honey locusts, we watch

for my father.
I think I see him,
an anonymous man

in a brown felt hat
and trench coat flapping
headed our way,

books tied in twine
and brown paper. The city bus
blocks him from sight, won’t stop

when I try to flag it down. When it is gone
without us, my father is gone
again, too.

I think he’s vanished
into the city until I spot him

with a group of children,
running up the snowy hill
with an air mattress.

He turns, waves once,
and continues on
without us.

Mary Stebbins
060318 this version (see earlier)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

PARKS: In the MISTS of Niagara, photo by Mary Stebbins. Every time I visit Niagara, I have to lean over the railing and look at the people climbing into the mists below in their blue raincoats. There is something primal about the scene. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Sudden Change of Seasons, poetry of dreams

I dreamed about "losing" my father, shortly after his death, and wrote a poem about it. Blogging is confusing, and I posted the poem on the Half-formed Blog because I was working on it there. It's called "A Sudden Change of Seasons (again)." An earlier version is posted earlier on this blog, scroll down.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Lumpers and Splitters

I studied taxonomy in college and learned about lumpers and splitters. Some taxonomists like to divide and divide into smaller and smaller groups while others look for similarities and group things together. I've been splitting my blogs into topics, but sometimes, the topics overlap. I posted a dreamwork piece on the Full Tilt Retreat Blog because I wrote it at my Spuddy Retreat Day three and wanted a continuity in that blog--a daily entry. So--if you'd like to see a dream used in a flash piece called Calico Wind, click here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dreams and Reveries

Water runs over my shoulders and down my back, warming and soothing me. My fingers reach deep into sudsy hair. A story forms in my mind, unfurls and blossoms. I watch it flower, excited, as I rinse and condition my hair. I soap and scrub my face and body, rinse, and step from the shower. As I reach for the towel, I realize the story is gone like a dream lost in morning sun.

Rebecca Dreams (detail from), multimedia: block print and electronic, Mary Stebbins Posted by Hello

Rune Staircase

I dream that I have magic runes, clay or stone mini-tablets each inscribed with a word or letter that flow together to make stories and poems. As I descend long winding stone stairs with damp rusty stains toward the courtyard of a castle, a soldier runs up the stairs, sword swinging at his side and bumps me, knocking my leather bag of runes so that they scatter down the long stairs. This so upsets me that I awaken. I ask Keith if he is awake and he mumbles he is. I say that I have spilled my words on the stairs and to be careful. It is difficult to speak. Each word is extracted painfully from a deep shadowy place, drawn slowly out and deposited into an oddly foreign night. Then in a rush, I say, “Or maybe it was just a dream, probably it was.” He says he will watch for my words. I go back to sleep thinking it was a dream and dream it was not a dream. It is morning and I walk down the stairs of the house in Grosse Pointe Farms. In bright morning light, I see my precious words strewn down the carpet-covered stairs. As I pick them up, they form the words of a breathtaking story, but when I wake, the story is gone.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion, photo by Mary Stebbins, taken at The Heidelberg Project in Detroit. This photo has the nightmarish quality of certain dreams. Posted by Hello

At the Edge, short story from dream

In the past couple days, I wrote a short story based on a dream I had a few days ago. Here is the dream:

I stop at Wegman's on my way to visit my mother at the nursing home. I want to buy her a little treat. Some dark chocolate. I like to bring her a little something when I visit, because she lives so much in the moment.I am disappointed to see a crowd gathered around the Menu table. They are exactly blocking the table of candy I wanted to examine. The chef demonstrates one of the meals from the new Menu and handing out samples. Some yuppie ham schnitzel concoction made with pork, not too spicy. I don't push up for a sample because I have only a little window of time to visit my Mom before I have to be at the lawyer's office. I’ve been asking Blake for a divorce for 20 years and have gotten nowhere. This will be the day I finally set the wheels in motion.I can't see Mom afterwards so I need to hurry. I push along the perimeter of the crowd and between stacks of crates displaying some of the ingredients for the ham schnitzel. On impulse, I toss a container of the ham and pork patties into my basket, and then all the other ingredient. It's a warmish early spring day, but if I wrap my car blanket around them, they should keep okay.I tear off one of the recipes printed on bright goldenrod paper and cram it down between the ingredients. I hope I like Ham Schnitzel.It's hot in here. I strip off my new grey North Face jacket and my grey textured American Eagle sweater. Blake gave it to me 20 years ago, on my birthday, right before he left me for Catlyn. I found it yesterday, digging some of Blake’s old stuff out of the closet where it’s hung for 20 years.I toss them in the basket. The sweater just surfaced this morning when I was tossing out some of Blake's old chamois shirts that were still hanging in the back of the closet. They wouldn't fit either of us, we've both gained weight. I turn away to look at the chocolate and someone takes my cart. It's a young woman, maybe twenty-two or three, with a child about five. "Brendyl," she shouts, as the child pockets a handful of grapes. She releases her hold on my cart to run over and snatch up the girl.Assuming she had grabbed my cart by accident, thinking it was hers; I push it about three steps toward the candy aisle. The woman dashes back, grabs it, and screams at me, "Don't take my cart."I stare at her, look into the cart. It's my sweater my coat, my schnitzel ingredients. I am not the one who's confused.She yanks the cart. Hard. Meanwhile, Brendyl, in her arms, leans over and drops her doll, a Barbie-like doll, and a whole pile of doll clothes into the cart.The woman pulls the cart. "Let go of my cart," she hisses.I yank hard and scream, "Help, Police, help!" No one looks or comes. My voice is strangled. I try again. "Help, police, help. Someone please help." It's a little louder, but not very. No one appears to notice.I give a sudden hard yank and the cart comes free from the woman's hand. I run through the crowd to the service desk. As I run, I pick the doll and doll clothes out of the cart. There are so many, scattered around the cart. I try to hand them to the young man behind the counter. He signals me to a different counter, comes down. I lay the dolls and the pile of clothes on the counter. Fish around for the few remaining ones. It occurs to me that I should have just taken my coat and sweater and let her have the cart."This woman . . ." I start to say."She stole my cart," the other woman says," running up."No," I say, "She stole mine.""That's a lie!" the other woman shouts.Now the crowd of people around the menu table is turning to look at us."If I stole your cart, why would I be turning in these things?" I ask, trying to stay calm. I can feel my ire rising. I pick up the doll and the doll clothes and try to hand them to Brendyl. The girl reaches for them but the woman slaps my hand and the doll and clothes fall to the floor.She grabs me by the arm and slaps me on the cheek, hard. My teeth rattle. I put my hand to my face and stare at her, astonished.

To see the story that I wrote from this dream, click here (please keep in mind that at this point, at least, this is a very early draft--brand new!): http://halfformed.blogspot.com/2005/04/at-edge.html

If you are interested in seeing the process I used writing this story, click here: http://halfformed.blogspot.com/2005/04/at-edge-look-at-raw-story-process.html

Saturday, April 09, 2005

In a Woodland Tunnel

In a woodland tunnel: I often dream of walking on and on through faded landscapes as if at dusk. This is a self-portrait of me in one of my dreams. Mary Available. Click on image to view larger. Posted by Hello

Dreaming Tahquamenon

On a raft above the falls, drifting
Among great boulders, a bed waits.
Under a waxing gibbous moon, across
the bed, we face each other. Unbutton one
button at a time. Eyes lock
in the dim light. Trees spin by, dark
hemlocks, maples pale in autumn
yellow. Another button. One more
and clothes drop
to the deck. Blue light caresses
roundness of breast, lean length of arm,
dark triangles. Under eyelets and
goose down, we turn toward each other
until skin touches skin along the length
of limbs. Over the falls with a thundering
whoosh, the raft sails. Miraculous,
winged. It settles. Soft
in the mist and foam below, our lips

Mary Stebbins
For KT
[050409-2a; 021027-1b, 1st]

Tahquamenon is the second largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It is located in Michigan's UP. This poem came directly from a lovely erotic dream. I hope to continue to work on it until it succeeds (or comes closer to succeeding) at communicating the joy and pleasure I felt in this dream.

Dreams in Stained Glass

Dreams in Stained Glass: Not only are dreams useful in writing, but also in artwork. This piece is a collage of dream images. Mary (artwork by me, Mary Stebbins) NOT available at this time. Posted by Hello

A Sudden Change of Seasons

In the stacks of a crowded bookstore,
searching for rare books
in ancient Greek and Latin,

my father disappears. The aisles
are now oddly empty. Only my mother
and me, bumping into each other

in our frantic search.
It is later
than we thought. We’ve missed

the downtown bus, and lunch in Liverpool
at a outdoor café. In the sun. Between planters
of petunias and golden

honey locusts, we watch for my father.
I think I see him,
an anonymous man

in a brown felt hat and flapping trench coat
headed our way with a package of books
tied in brown twine. The bus

blocks him from sight, won’t stop
when I try to flag it down. When it is gone
without us, my father is gone again, too.

I think he’s vanished into the city until
I spot him sledding with a group of children,
running up the snowy hill with an air mattress.

Face full of fun and light, he turns,
waves once,
and continues on without us.

Mary Stebbins
For Pa
[050409-3c, 020217-2x, 1]

This poem was taken directly from a dream. The dream provided a metaphor for my father’s death. The task, as in all poems, is to put the dream events in concise clear language. I am attempting to move toward that goal with this poem. Mary

Walking Through Glass, Adventures with Dream Poetry

From earliest childhood, I’ve always loved dreams. Once, my dream-life flowed seamlessly into my waking life--all one experience. With utmost sincerity, I told “true” stories that I later realized could not have been true in the “real” or phenomenal world. In one, my grandmother and I stood in the dark in our nightgowns. Outside the glass doors that opened to the back patio, a pack of wolves gathered in a circle of light from the candle on the dining room table. Only the panes of glass separated us from the wolves, and I knew from experience how easy it is to walk through glass—no harder than stepping through the skin of a lake into the water below. It was not the glass that protected me from the wolves, but the will and strength of my grandmother, who was very wise. She knew how to transform fearsome predators into friendly companions.
Later that same year, a wildfire raged across the dry meadows behind the house, and I watched adults battle the blaze. The wolves gathered around me, flanking me on both sides. Inside the house. I now know that although the fire existed in the phenomenal world, the wolves were part of my dreaming.
I began writing poems and stories when I was ten. They contained elements from both waking and dreaming life. They were often silly, but at ten, I didn’t mind being silly. I wrote about flying purple pigs, kings, queens, princesses and orphans. The princesses and orphans were all me. I created a private mythology, drawing from waking imagination and dream images. In dreams I could fly, and often gave my poetic self magical (dream-like) qualities. Dreams were more exciting and interesting than waking life and creating poetry from dreams was a way to re-enter that excitement.
I didn’t articulate this until I grew up, but even as a child, I trusted the poemness of dreams. Dreams are communicated through image and metaphor, two major tools of poetry. Many dreams are poems begging waiting to be captured. Poems are rarely given to me in words, so recording a poem means translating images and metaphors into language. Appropriate language is crucial. A good dream does not automatically make a good poem. I use the same skills with dream poetry that I use in creating poems from a waking experience. I avoid clichés, choose musical and rhythmic words, pay attention to line breaks, stanza breaks and other poetic devices.
Not all dreams are poems simply waiting to be recorded. Some dreams are too long, too complex, or too disjointed to make a good poem. In such instances, I might make poems from selections of the images and metaphors of dreams.
Many dreams relate directly to waking life. I often make helpful and healing discoveries creating dream poems. Ellen Bass says that the purpose of poetry is to speak truth, not to heal, but speaking truth is often a first step to healing, and dreams always speak a truth about some aspect of inner or outer life.
Because many of my dreams feel mythological, I am writing a series of mythological dreams, weaving personal mythology into classical mythology. Sometimes, dreams come to me that seem to be a “gift” from another culture. For example, I recently dreamed a short dream (my dreams are often long and convoluted) of an old woman emerging at night from a dark low doorway and opening her hand to release tiny stars which dispersed into the night. I got up and wrote the following poem:

How the First Mother Brought Winged Stars
to Earth

So long did the first mother sleep in the shadows
of her mud hut that the people forgot her. They forgot
she had come from the sky and given birth to the long
line of mothers, the mothers of all the first people.
The people hunted in the fields and forests, fished
in the streams, and sang under the stars until the first
clouds were born of the seas. The first clouds grew
and grew and covered the stars, weeping on and off
for more than two hands of days. The first people
caught the sadness of clouds, and as the clouds wept,
so did the people. Their sadness flooded the first mother’s
dreams. Though the first mother was ancient and shrunken,
she was spry in dreams, and danced in the dream
shadows of her hut into a dream of stars. She dreamed
herself winged. Flew among the stars. Gathered
great flocks of them into the nets of her wings.
In her hut, she rose singing from her dreams. Came
in the darkness of the nadir to the door of her hut. Called
the people from their shelters to gather around her.
Opened her hands, and released flying stars. Shining
and twinkling, they dispersed into the tall grass
and wildflowers. The people gasped, then laughed,
then sang again. Sang and sang. Now her children,
even those who had forgotten her, had stars, dancing
stars they would call fireflies, stars to shine and call
forth song, even on cloudy nights.[i]

While most of my dream poems involve translating images and metaphors into words, some are given to me in words. One night, I dreamed I was watching a scene and at the same time participating in it, and a voice in my dream mind dictated the words of a poem about what I was seeing. When I woke up, I could not remember all the words, but here is a rendering of what I do remember:

City of Palms

The trailer lurches across a blood sky
on great silver wings whenever the baby kicks.
Lonnie sees the future, a series of images:
a city with palms lining miles of shining sand,
beach tables set with silver, men in pastel shirts
and ties, women in flowered skirts that swirl
around their ankles. This baby will know
a world beyond this rusted trailer tumbled
under masses of kudzu, overgrown
with tall grass and weeds. Below, green
scum broken by mossy backs of giant snappers
covers the pond and the slick muddy banks
are littered with frogs and water moccasins.
Lonnie grips the wobbly railing to let the pain pass,
looks down into the rusting barrel of overflowing
beer cans. She heaves herself up the rotting stairs
into the dark oven where she will wait out
the quickening pains and alone, push out Hope,
red, wet and squalling.[ii]

Although I write poetry for my own satisfaction, it is nice to occasionally win an award for my work. I wrote a poem combining my own sleep and waking dreams with the myth of Persephone, who journeyed to the underworld. (My dreams often feel like journeys to the underworld.) This poem won a first place in New Millennium’s semi-annual poetry contest:

In Murky Waters

In spite of Demeter's sudden, unexplained warning to Persephone
at dinner: "never dive into murky waters," already
Persephone's pink toes disappear into the small shadowed pond
she uses as an entry to the underworld. Persephone
plunges deep into clouded waters, swims strong, and surfaces
in another world. It's not the world you would expect,
if you've been spelunking, not only cold dark damp rock,
stalactites and stalagmites, clusters of bats, dangling spiders.
Here, dark things coexist with an improbable profusion of sunshine,
wind-washed dunes, torrid jungles, mountains, waterfalls, swamps.
Anything you could find in the above-worlds exist below.
Persephone couldn't see them at first, saw only the darkness,
the fire-lit throne room, the endless files of dead passing through,
the grey river Styx and the huge grey swamp through which it flows.
Hades had to teach her. She kept opening her eyes to find other eyelids
underneath, like Dante, taking off his masks. Hades, who kept rambling on
about the "veils," peeled away onion layers of Persephone's eyes
until a dim light, a pale yellow green light began to suffuse the endless night.
Layer upon layer he peeled away, until Persephone herself started clawing,
scraping masks of blindness from her eyes. After days and weeks and months
of this, the sun slowly appeared to her under rock and through rock and within rock
and beyond rock. She saw the rock that is sun. "Look at the sun,"
she said to Demeter, one spring evening, pointing down through rock
into her husband's chambers. Demeter thought her daughter
weak from lack of sustenance, from drinking only grenadine for half the year.
Persephone swore she would rewrite her own myth, imagining an ending
entirely different from this, thinking only of escape from Hades and return to earth.
Now, rewriting her myth again, she sees herself as uniquely privileged
among women, beyond victim, beyond survivor, sun among shadows,
golden fish in murky waters, powerful, winged, and shining
queen of the underworld.[iii]

I love writing dream poetry. For me, every poem, like every dream, is an adventure with something to teach me. I recommend it to anyone who remembers their dreams and enjoys poetry.

Mary Stebbins

[i]For Debbie Hutchison and Robert Moss
[ii]For Erin and Sara Stebbins
[iii]New Millennium Writings, Fall/Winter 1997, for Linda Pennisi, Patrick Lawler, and Janine DeBaise