I have hard dreams. Sometimes I’m asleep for them.

The night that I conceived a woman hung downface from the ceiling. White hair, arms out, slender body adorned in fluttering sheets, she more flew than fell. Dead, I presumed. All day it had rained. We’d fucked to pass time- on the bed, the dresser, the carpet, a brief stint in the antique rocking chair. Vacation. Black and white portraits in worn frames filled the wall: vignettes, stiff shouldered, square jaws. Humorless sepia eyes that drilled through glass and skin. He slept.

Still the woman. Before the woman there were roses: red roses on a white-gleaming wall, vision steady-panning as they melted into blood. And the salamanders: a swift creek full of them, brown, bright red, yellow-striped, slick heads and thick tails whipping against the current. Occasionally a grainy clump of dirt, a half-decayed frond fallen from a fern. And then of course the roadside, weeds tall, purple mountain flowers small under parasols of Queen Ann’s lace- punctured by a black stone obelisk higher than my head.

Intermittently a gash in the roadside: red Georgia clay, steep-clean fallen from a gouge in the earth, marked by rivulets of erosion. Visions flashed in and out of me; I tossed in the sheets.

Then the woman again. Her ceiling- or mine, my rented ceiling- real, staid by walls and floor, oddly slanted. So hot, that room; my eyelids burned, eyes sharp with salt. I stank. She came down, she came to me. I closed my eyes so as not to see. In vision, dark, her eyelids sliding open precisely as mine squeezed shut. Blue, a cold and cooling blue, eyelashes curled like a snake to strike.

Only later did I find that I conceived. Oddly, first, a terror of parking garages and elevators; later, nausea. Then the swell, the flutter, the breaking of water. Milk, joy, thrush. A long colic wail in competition with the oceanic roar of the vacuum.

But first I thought- we thought- that I was insane. Salamanders, roses, obelisks, wounds- a vicious grinning ghost of a woman with her arms flung out like Jesus. What the hell?

She didn’t come back to me until after the rape. She was older then, twisted and thin. I was too. Dried gray herbs, pale nuts, white roots and bits of things surrounded her, broken glass and mirror shards. They shook with her words.

Nurture me, she commanded. Nurture me!

I ran from my bed.

4 thoughts on “I have hard dreams. Sometimes I’m asleep for them.

  1. I’m so sorry you have these horrible dreams, visions, night terrors- I’m not sure which it is you’re experiencing. I know how disorienting they can be. Mine recently went away when I took Gaba-ease. I should send you a bottle.
    Salamanders are fascinating. I never saw them in my night terrors but almost wish I had instead of boring ol’ spiders- there is some intense mythology behind them. I can’t remember if people actually did this or if it was a myth, but apparently roasting salamanders brought about spiritual illumination or revelations. Of course,if you cut off their tails they grow another (I’m sure you already know all of this) so there is also the idea of self regeneration. They’re remarkable, really, just not in nightmares. All of your images sound like the unconscious pursuit of healing, wholeness and growth. I wish you so much strength and light and love in that pursuit.

  2. Actually, I’m glad that I have these…vision-y things. They can be scary, but they’re often deeply meaningful. I learn from them, create from them, and carry them. I wouldn’t want them to permanently go away, although they can be frustrating as fuck when they’re coming on like transition-contractions every night. That only happens when my PTSD is really, really bad.

    Every now and then they’re funny- a brightly colored walrus quarter-slot ride-on, for example, complete with bowler hat topped with a cheery flower. When they start I just go with them- sometimes tell L. out loud what I see. I know they’re not what is largely regarded as “real”, but they often hold more meaning for me than many regular kind of day to day going ons.

    Salamanders are very personal to me. As a child I spent a lot of time in mountain creeks and cold mud in north Georgia, searching for salamanders. The bright red one that I mentioned- the one that I saw in the vision- is one that I actually spent an entire summer trying to catch. I could find him- brief glimpses of his wet slick skin, a flash of liquid red, small black spots sprinkled across his back as he slipped into the mud under a log- but he always got away.

    I love the way salamanders feel. Holding one in my hand, being near one, watching a salamander swim or hold weightless in a current down in dead leaves feels like being literally blessed.

    A salamander sighting for me is an affirmation. So at least that creepy lady on the ceiling was tempered somewhat. Thank you for the wishes for the strength, light, and love. I think I’ll direct that towards my dreams about my family of origin.

    Do you ever write from your dreams?

  3. I agree, there’s a lot of meaning to be found in dreams (waking or otherwise) I ‘ve always felt it was a gift to see things others didn’t or too feel things more intensely, but yeah, when the ptsd is so severe I cant function very well, then that’s when it all becomes a curse.
    I would love to hear more of these childhood stories, especially about wandering the mountains alone searching for salamanders. I have never actually felt a salamander and when I wrote about it in my story, it just appeared out of nowhere- I don’t know why it entered the story. so strange.

    yes, I have written from my dreams. Not lately because there is a weird disconnect with me and writing right now- just tiny blurbs of poetry here and there- but in the past I have dreamt entire scenes, like short films, that I wrote out as soon as I woke up. Oddly enough, they’re not always cheerful…imagine that. 😉

  4. Somewhere the totemic meaning for salamanders is given as “that which cannot be destroyed.” I’m in thrall with the way this symbol has appeared since your childhood—that time in which, regardless of its hardness, we are often known to carry a spark, a glittering jewel self. I like thinking that no matter the traumas, the witchy berserkers hanging from external or internal ceilings, some facet of that spark will always survive. That it can never truly be destroyed.

    A friend who is a creative writing teacher wrote some article entitled Shit Creative Writing Instructors Hate wherein he listed dreams. He then stated that he didn’t know why. I agree. Everything is dream, maybe. So, what else could we write?

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