Notebook from the Arts Colony

 

I dreamt last night of a friend who I insulted almost twenty years ago. We haven’t spoken since. He was trying to sell me a shirt. That’s how the unconscious works. There’s plenty of suppressed rage in the haberdashery. Other things happened and other people appeared. At one point I was wearing a turtle shell, preparing to advertise something on a Manhattan street. I was worried about my guide dog. Who would look after her while I wandered, disguised as a turtle? A charming policeman of the unconscious said he’d look after my dog. I began crying because he led my dog away.

I thought of my friend Simi, who is a disability rights activist in New York, and a wheel chair user–thought she’d know what to do. I mean, how do you get out of a turtle suit and get your dog back in the city of the Id?

**

I had dinner last night with Syrian film maker Nabil Maleh. We talked about the torrential deaths in his homeland. We discussed the strange, introverted smugness of many American artists–hipster culture is essentially apolitical, ironic, drugged on its own fashion statements. When you’ve been in the middle of genocide, arriving in the salon of easy post-MFA satisfactions is hard. We talked about it. I spoke of Poets Against War, about the 10% of artists in the US who think about human rights. It’s a small percentage. We drank some wine from Argentina. We both hate Ronald Reagan. We both have the hope that John Kerry will stir international outrage over Syria. “My country has been destroyed,” he said.

**

I gave a reading a few nights ago from my new collection of poems Letters to Borges. Later a composer said to me, “I like how simple you make the hard things sound.” That is the difficult thing. Simplicity. And the other hard thing is the politics. As Tomas Transtromer says of his own poetry: “And the people who buy and sell others, and who believe that everyone can be bought, don’t find themselves here.”

**

The shirt in my dream was from my childhood. It had dreadful stripes. I wore it in the hospital, blind child, alone in a ward. The damned thing came back last night. You can count on the Id.