Sleeping Over

Still from <em>The Prisoner</em>, BBC Television, 1967

Still from The Prisoner, BBC Television, 1967

1. I went to sleep and I had three dreams.  I dreamed I was stretched out on a square wheel by an little old architect.  He made me a ballistic machine and pulled me tight until I made clear and equal sounds.  He reckoned me and aimed me and pinned me by my navel.  He spoke often and loudly and his voice echoed down the long hall, returning only parts of his speech and denounced me and my foolish dream:  “Why are you looking at me in such an unseemly way?  I have saved you forever.  These lines, rerum apta conlocatio elegansque.”  He broke into Latin and when I spoke he gave me a black eye and insisted on silence.  I was on axis and the man in his foolishness made me the measure of the universe.  I was in plan, and the man trapped me like a fish and the savage lines burned my fingers and my hair grew long as I wheeled the stars around me and men in robes came in and thought about me for reassurance, and then left and women weren’t allowed.  A hundred years later the old man spoke again smiling enigmatically and writing in a mirror and made everyone see me and know what I looked like.  He gave me an extra pair of arms and two new legs that didn’t fit me, but fitted my wheel as I measured, elemental, universal and consumed space.

b. I woke angry at property developers and found my house was dark and my watch had stopped, its luminous hands fixed in place by the number 9 which had come loose under the glass.  My bed was tightly made around me and I was too hot. I had a headache behind my eyes, and my mind was struggling halfwittedly with trigonometry and how far it was from my window to the church steeples.

2. I took a long time to go to sleep again, finally heavy with shadows.  I didn’t open my eyes, but I knew tacitly that all around me was the desert I had made and called it peace.  I didn’t want to open my eyes because I was worried about what was over my head.  The hair on the back of my neck could see that above me waited a white bubble that could see me when I moved.  It made sure I was sleeping, and I wouldn’t move a muscle.  I knew that close by was a bright village with a forum and lots of numbers and no free men and a stone boat and Americans.  Then I was exhausted, and the bubble had escaped from the back of my head into the sky that was just the right colour for my house that I had been searching for.  The bubble was my house in exile, and it floated above my head on my pillow, and it knew how far it was to the lightswitch, and it was my dream, and it was my wheel remade to fit my uneven limbs, and it always took me home again, and it stretched over my face, and it swam in the water, and the furrows on my forehead grew deep and black and I could feel the breath at the back of my nose, and the bubble wasn’t there any more and I was the bubble and I wasn’t sure if I had a third dream or if I dreamed the bubble did.

Salvador Dali, <em>Sleep</em>, 1937

Salvador Dali, Sleep, 1937

3. I dropped into my dream, slow wave and rapid eyes.  I dreamed about architecture.  There was a monastery, solid, stable and Byzantine that held the horixon down.  The ground was still my desert, but it was soft and plastic and inky like me.  I was a monument being built and held up by crutches that were sensitive to my misshapen body.  Distorted, fleshy, worrisome anthropophagus tadpole hippocampus that I was, I didn’t need limbs to sleep, and I drew far inside and just below the surface of my eyelids.  Under the shadow of my domed head, swollen by all the thoughts I had of my house, a man in a turban came around the headland and beached his boat and examined me.  He didn’t threated me because he was a nomad, and didn’t remain anywhere (even though his shadow lay long across the desert), so he didn’t exist.  And his eyes looked far away.  He was a Digger who scratched at the ground and made an abyss that he smoothed over again, and I wanted to speak but my lips were too heavy.  The moon didn’t care, but the tripod dog looked at me hard and I began to worry about my crutches.  I knew I was in a fragile state, and couldn’t get back to the water if the dog knocked me over and it was important and I couldn’t remember, and in a moment of clarity I did.  I was smiling to myself because I realized I could be right behind you and you didn’t know.  The little blanket on my back covered the back of my neck and my ears, but it didn’t cover my toes and I pulled them in and I couldn’t stay any more and the desert was my sheet and I had one eye open and the moon was the face of my watch that couldn’t be bothered marking time.

3b. My left eye was dry and my pillow was wet and I drew the back of my hand across my huge wet lips and my nose was the rocky headland and I was a world and there was running water and someone coughed.  My dream was a picture now, and I wanted to put it in my house, but I couldn’t measure it to see if it would fit.  I was on a skateboard and fell off the curb and my back kicked.

b.  I woke up and got out of bed and dragged a comb across my head, and didn’t have a comb, and chased that stupid idea dog out of my head house.  The last residue of sleep crystallized in my eyes.  I crossed the carpet, and went into the bathroom.  I spat toothiness down the plughole and washed my face down after it.  I remembered that last night while I was trying to go to sleep, I had important thoughts about designing something, or had thought of something to write.  I couldn’t remember it though:  it had fallen down between my bed and the wall, so I resigned myself to not remembering.”

( Written in 2001 for a studio brief: a project for a sleeping-space to be shared by a human and an artificial intelligence. It turns out Joyce, like cheese, is a hallucinogen. )

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