Against Certainty

Conviction is important, but certitude is our own invention, like in my dream: a large male lion followed by a long chain of images stretched over hours of turbulent sleep. In the dream, we were companions in an unfamiliar home, though how we came together I can’t say or know or even dream. Worry and unease propelled the dream forward: the terror as the death of my children by the lion’s teeth and jaw. Soon, there were other wild cats about, let loose from other locations, a bobcat and a black leopard, and they too, drifted through the dream, and hallway, the stairs. As will be, in the dusk of a dream, as mystery, the lion came to sit on a bed, and I watched him, through the space between the door. He was dying. Deteriorating. Becoming less and less a lion. I was useless to do anything, unable to save him, sad, though afraid he would kill my children still.

I want to make something of this dream here, to think of it as a threshold, an exploration of uncertainty, the liminal space, from psychology, the term, lemen, referring to “the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce an effect.” It’s a place of disquiet and wonder, defined as new imaginative space. Where it’s myriad and interesting, where focus will yield something creative. Walking in my neighborhood today, I hear a man say this kind of time is holy for what it holds as possibility. As potential transcendence. As art.

Muriel Rukeyser wrote in 1949, “The poems of the next moment are at hand.” I expect this space of uncertainty is a location of great consideration, an expansion of prayer and play, of what will become poems, of joy—picking dirt from under my fingernails, or the lady passerby throwing a few hoops out front, or collecting mugwort to carry in my front pocket on the way home, the plant a gesture and cue toward the next great thing—its occurrence as supernatural as its folklore, for the dream potential it carries: creativity, lucidity, memory. Tonight, I’ll chop the herb on my table, roll it into paper, and burn the leaf in the dim light of my porch watching out for night animals on the street, and upon dream, anticipate the lion’s return or restoration, or even better, some other persuasion or fantasy altogether, as, Rukeyser wrote, “my wild bed turns slowly among the stars.”

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