Our next misunderstood soul in need of some dreamsplaining is Kirsten Kaschock, author of three books of poetry: Unfathoms (Slope Editions), A Beautiful Name for a Girl (Ahsahta Press), The Dottery, winner of the Donald Hall Prize for poetry from AWP (University of Pittsburgh Press), a chapbook WindowBoxing (Bloof Books) and the speculative novel, Sleight (Coffee House Books). She’s also on the faculty at Drexel University. I’ve been a longtime fan and after reading Sleight (“You Are Living On The Site Of An Atrocity.”) I longed for a deeper peek into that marvelously twisted psyche.
I got my wish when Kirsten sent me this dream:
In my dream I was escaping a bookstore. I had just come across a webcam studio for fake teen twin porn in a secret crawl space above a wine and cheese reading and needed to get out. I drove away without my glasses in a heavy night rain with headlights coming at me like bats. I crashed in the woods and ran through nettles (chased by something I could not identify) until a bleak Novemberish dawn broke. Hours. I was finally picked up by people hanging out the back of a military truck with a tarp and taken in terrified silence to a refugee camp (which happened to be my childhood neighborhood) where I was housed with dozens of others in (what happened to be) my childhood home. Seeking solitude I used an old dresser to barricade myself in the door-less upstairs bathroom where the water sputtered brown into the sink so I couldn’t rinse my face. I could barely stand the idea of looking in the mirror. When I did, I didn’t look like me. That’s when I noticed one of my childhood journals (with its purple-flowered fabric binding) half-shredded and hanging from a chain (I assumed for personal use). I don’t remember if there was more to the dream. But that felt like enough.
Kirsten is running from something and when she runs she ends up in something that makes her withdrawal. Dark stuff.
I love dark stuff! To figure out what Kirsten is running from, we should begin with what a bookstore would represent to a writer. But this isn’t just any regular bookstore, this one has a secret: a fake teen twin porn space that happens to be right above what one would presume is a very respectable-seeming (wine and cheese) literary reading. There’s appearances and then there are appearances. What might a fake teen twin porn crawl space be about? Is this porn less terrible than what it purports to be because it is somehow fake? Is it trying to seem like something more awful than it really is or is still awful for pretending to be something so awful? What’s not out in the open about it? The teen porn or the fake aspect? Or both? What’s up with the twin-part? Is this just another detail to add onto the ickiness of the area, or is something doubled? At the very least the bookstore has a dual-purpose and that dual-purpose is unbearable to remain inside.
When one crawls, one is not walking. Is that because one has not learned to walk yet? Or one is injured? Or one is trying to sneak out without being noticed? Must one crawl to fit and move within this is a secret, shady space above a respectable-seeming public performance? What a disconcerting place to find oneself in, no wonder Kirsten is high-tailing it out.
When she leaves, she’s without her eye glasses and the rain and headlights coming at her like “bats” make it impossible for her to clearly see where she’s going (I wonder if the bats ever hang out in the fake-teen porn studio?). She needs light which when she gets it is bleak and the help she receives is from a terrorizing military presence that brings her (by force?) to a refugee camp that’s her childhood.
You can run, but you’ll end up back in your past. And that’s where Kirsten barricades herself and withdrawals. The bathroom, the most private of private spaces, but this one is doorless. She has to create her own to block out others. Unusable brown water (emotions, unconscious, not something you want to drink) flows from here. She can’t bear to look at her face. Our face is how we’re seen. It’s also what we see out of. It’s how we’re recognized, our identity. It’s what we put forward. But Kirsten’s face is not recognizable to her and when she realizes that she notices that her childhood journals, her words and thoughts from back then, are being used to wipe asses!
An unhonored, undervalued childhood. It’s worth pointing out the unseemly parts of both spaces have to do with such childhood. Ok, maybe I don’t love all the dark stuff.
Oh Kirsten, I’ve been there. Maybe I’m still there now. I can’t tell you how many unseemly, disconcerting childhood dreams I’ve had. Nobody wants to go back and examine that shit. We just want to move on. But we never completely leave it behind, do we?
Kirsten, time to piece together that childhood journal and see what can be put together. Ugh. But you got to get yourself out of the barricaded bathroom. It’s not a healthy place for you to be.