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 which seemed completely 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
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 admired
but haven’t seen for years
and never, honestly, desired?
How come she suddenly appears,
instead of scores of others I’d prefer? How should I know?

What am I doing in this factory shed
building a motor engine, piece by piece?
Why am I wearing purple dungarees?
Outside, impatient clients wait. Progress is 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:
her noble spouse will soon rejoin his bride;
the suitors soon 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.
I’ve no idea what’s happening in my nether brain:
recycling centre? off-site archive? rubbish pit?

I have a friend who dreams he’s being crucified.
To add to his distress,
someone is throwing something at his back.
He turns his head — not easy on a cross —
and sees his mother, hurling lumps of shit.

Now that’s what I call symbolism. That’s what my dreams lack.
Nights never bring me meanings ready-made
and mornings only puzzlement and loss.
My dreams are fleeing guests: ‘So sorry we can’t stay.’
Before I’ve run the bath, the actors fade
and by the time my teeth are clean, they’ve passed away.

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

Listen to this poem — read by the author