Monday, February 28, 2005


In German before psychology muddies everything, between dream (traum) and trauma (trauma)—no relation, not even a quick exchange of genes at the Illyrian border during the glorious reign of the two Antonines.

In the dream we can’t keep having but do, somewhere, in the middle ages, on alternate branches of the Danube, two unrelated meanings flow together— the Old Saxon drôm (mirth, noise, minstrelsy) merging with the Germanic verbal series dreug-, draug-, drug-,(to deceive, delude). A big muddy river of deceptive mirth champagning into downtown London.

Beyond the noise and pageantry, beyond the deceptive shroud of song, trauma, simply and unalterably, wound (τράύμά). In the wind, in the wand, unhealing. Carried on the backs of camels from Damascus to Alexandria. Lord Byron goes off to recover it. Dies.

In some versions language is a wound; in others it’s a dream. In some versions, the dream issues from the wound like bad marsh gas. Bandage of skittery chatter, the unconscious generating its own false etymologies.

It covers most of my abdomen, the wound. The plug to the power-strip doesn’t quite fit. Keeps coming loose when I sneeze. The lights flicker or go out. I have to think really hard to keep the stereo powered. Everyone’s saying different things to me, different things to me.

If I wound you, will you dream for me? If I dream you, will you wound me? The tram rocks precariously over the yawning glacier. In the wind, in the wound, in the wooing.

And then Freud changes his mind. The breakdown of sugars cannot explain the breakdown of Frau ____. Cannot explain the wish in the stigmatum as it reappears on the guilty hand raised to tell the teacher what it really thinks. The thought does not please her. She’d rather be a bacterium.

My friend keeps taking the seminar on trauma every semester but doesn’t remember any of it. Hasn’t dreamed in years.

Oedipus in the O.E.D. stabbing his eyes with the replica of his crippling. No relation, of course. An accident, not a mistake. Like the beginning of life—that wound—in the proto-genes hitched to mitochondria. Afterward, mistakes not accidents. If you could just get back to the headwaters of the definitions, that scratch in the sandstone, on the cave walls, whatev. That drone, that palindrome. What a drag.

“The unaccountable corporate flight of nesting colonies of terns and gulls is a ‘dread’. . . .A sudden take-off and flight of a flock of gulls or other birds.”

No comments: