On the topology of dreams

[ by Charles Cameron — a poem that’s far too philosophical to work as poetry, Laramée’s Apparatus, and Alyce Santoro’s philosoprops ]


The logic of poetry is, más o menos, dream logic, and so I’ve been pondering the logic of dreams and recently wrote this not terribly poetic poem:

The egg at the conjuror’s table

There is a topology of dreams.

Out beyond Riemann and names I have yet to learn,

there are configurations of space:

past Boole, dreams have their logics.


Take an egg.

With a tap of the wand, crack it open,

let it fall apart so precisely

the two half-shells could again fit together,

ovoid, seamlessly,

almost an egg.

Catch white and yolk in a glass.

Toss up and catch the half shell in your left hand

holding the right steady,

bring them together, there’s a fit,

a logic to it, a topology, one

to one, across many thousands of facets

of fragile, broken shell.

Break another egg so preciely

the left half of ts shell would match exactly

the right half of the first,

bring them together,

the fit is exact by definition,

brown shell with speckled,

but there is loss of logic, the thing is surreal,

an egg not an egg at all.

Holding the half-shell in your right hand

face upwards, pour into it

yolk and white of the same egg,

the heart of the egg filling its own shell,

the fit ovoid, but better:

the original yolk united with its familiar shell.

Cover shell and all with a handkerchief,

red, green, blue,

whisk it away, and the egg vanishes —

or appears, whole.


There are logics, topologies,

affinities beyond the exact match

of shell and shell,

and so between times, places,

people in dreams –

the half hovel, half cathedral

with its walkways among lily ponds, the koi,

dusk in one century dawn in another,

her youth your old age your youth again, time

cracked open so precisely,

its yolk, meaning,

its moments an exact match across centuries,

its half-shell a perch for Venus,

its wholeness Fabergé,

its yolk, tempera mixed by Giotto,

meaning, tempera, Assisi,

gesso, the chalk cliffs of Dover, the sea..

There is a harmony of the whole,

of the broken unbroken,

named yet unnameable, unspeakable,

there is a logic.

there is a topology of the sundries of dreams,

a mathematics to this matching

of thou with i,

of words, asleep, awake, of dusk to dawn, with all.

Recognising that it belongs in a category she might call philosopoetry, I sent it to my friend, the artist Alyce Santoro, author of the remarkable Philosoprops: A Unified Field Guide>


I’m a lucky fellow.

Today, via 3 Quarks Daily, I ran across this quote from Walter Bejamin:

I had suffered very much from the din in my room. Last night the dream retained this. I found myself in front of a map and, at the same time, in the landscape which was depicted on it. The landscape was incredibly gloomy and bleak, and it wasn’t possible to say whether its desolation was merely a craggy wasteland or empty grey ground populated only by capital letters. These letters drifted curvily on their base, just as if they were following the mountain range; the words formed from these letters were more or less remote from each other. I knew, or came to know, that I was in the labyrinth of the ear canal. The map was at the same time a map of hell.

There’s something darkly Borgesian about that quote, eh? But it certainly illuminates dream topology, and even moreso, the topology of the relationship of dream to waking, itself worth comparing with the relationship of map to territory, word to referent, and indeed moon to finger with which Count Korzybski, Lao Tzu, and the Zen poets are each so notably concerned.


Tunneling on through, I find myself contemplating one of Alyce’s inspirations — Eve Andrée Laramée’s Apparatus for the Distillation of Vague Intuitions, shown in Mass MoCA‘s 2000-2001 exhibition Unnatural Science, from 2000 – 2001:


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