Friday, March 23, 2012

Brenda Hillman's Exhausted Dreams

“After a Very Long Difficult Day” By Brenda Hillman - Slate Magazine:

Any of us who have to work know the feeling of coming home after the worst of days , dragging the collected weight of tedium and exhaustion behind them. The dream that awaits, I would say, are the spartan pleasures, a simple meal prepared or reheated, a television show , a long bath, finishing a DVD one began a couple of nights previous, a silence on the couch that consists of no thoughts, only an engagement of the passive senses. Hearing seems  most acute, one hears the squeal and whining song of plumbing in other apartments, odd clicks and metallic bangs of central heating, the glow of lamp light that only obscure the clarity and shape of objects. And then, sleep, the nodding realm where the mind plants the gathered input of the day  it has just witnessed, judged and navigated on uncountable levels and from which dreams are made, the glorious, churning, twisting , unfolding subterranean universe of symbols that give an image over that which one no longer cares to consider.

Brenda Hillman's poem does, I think, a rather sweet job of conveying the sense of the twilight consciousness, the half awake state where one is not sure whether they are actually talking to someone or if their blurred sensibilities are replaying what was said and what was heard in the course of the day,the week, the month so far. It is a smart, well balanced choice to keep this in the form of a monologue, a portion of a string of ideas where what is done and the daily world, and what is said and heard, is uttered again , iterated and reiterated; long and difficult days coming from careers or from personal lives that have become so enmeshed in the complications of others that reflection seems possible only in the moments when exhaustion finally takes old of a fine mind that is already taxed, tired, approaching the dream state.

There is in the poem a neatly achieved sense of how things are conflated with other things they  resemble not at all except in comparisons inspired by weariness, boredom, the feeling that one feels drawn between people , places and things ; the speaker is robbed of her autonomy and there is a noticable, tangible sense of powerlessness residing in the dashes  that separate many of the poem's best lines. Boundaries here are violated with a light, subtle touch,one's talent, instincts, inspirations belong now to someone else and even in dreams there is only the symbolism that reminds you and perhaps instructs the worker that even in sleep we are beholden and wholly owned by the world we struggle with.