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Penelope was Right…

‘“Many and many a dream is mere confusion,
a cobweb of no consequence at all.”’

So why do I lie here,
too warm and lazy still to enter on the day,
interrogating dreams whose authenticity was clear
when I was active in them, just a blink ago?

Why did I grandly, foolishly agree
to take the part of Hamlet in the play
(another actor having suddenly dropped dead)
and then not learn the lines? Some deep anxiety
still living in me, surfacing in sleep? I don’t think so.

Why was I making love to her,
a former colleague I’d admired
but hadn’t seen for years
and never, honestly, desired,
instead of certain others I’d prefer? How should I know?

What was I doing in that factory shed,
attempting to rebuild a motor engine, piece by piece,
reduced by my ham-fistedness to tears
each time the foreman passed and menaced, ‘You’re too slow’?

Penelope has dreamt that twenty geese
have come to feed on grain beside her house.
A mountain eagle swoops and kills them all.
She weeps. The eagle flies back to explain: he is her spouse,
absent so many years, returning to his bride;
her suitors now will meet their bloody fate.
And yet she’s doubtful when she wakes and sees ‘“the geese in hall,
still feeding at the self-same trough”’.

It’s plain enough. Her dream’s a portent. Mine are just a mess.
With what should I compare the nightly antics in my pate?
Recycling centre? Off-site archive? Rubbish pit?

I have a friend who dreams he’s being crucified.
To add to his distress,
mysterious missiles rain down on his back.
He turns his head — not easy on a cross —
and sees his father hurling lumps of shit.

Now that’s what I call symbolism: meaning ready-made.
And that’s what my dreams lack.
My mornings bring me only puzzlement and loss,
regret at fleeing guests: ‘So sorry we can’t stay.’
Before I’ve run the bath, the dramatis personae fade
and by the time my teeth are clean, they’ve slipped away.

The quotations are from Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey.