Maybe it’s being cooped up in this dreary weather that had me stuck me in a rut, but I’d been yearning to dreamsplain an adventure. The psychic gods didn’t make me suffer too long. Miraculously, two snippets from a Hoa Nguyen dream appeared in my inbox. Magic! Nothing better than entering an adventure from the coziness of my reclining chair while wrapped in my snuggie. As far as I’m concerned, dreamsplaining in total comfort is the only way to go.
Born in the Mekong Delta and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Hoa Nguyen studied Poetics at New College of California in San Francisco. With the poet Dale Smith, Nguyen founded Skanky Possum, a poetry journal and book imprint in Austin, TX, their home of 14 years. She is the author of nine books and chapbooks including As Long As Trees Last (Wave, 2012) and Red Juice: Poems 1998 – 2008 (Wave, 2014). She currently lives in Toronto where she curates a reading series, reads tarot, and teaches poetics.
I am trying to save a woman who was pronounced dead and sent down a chute toward a kiln oven to incinerate her body. She becomes conscious and begins yelling for help. I am apparently the only one who can hear her, have to defeat many barriers to reach her but seemingly must do this single handedly. I am met by 3 different male figures: a famous comedian (I blow him off and let him know I need to focus), a literary critic (he has elaborate window covers that shield his privacy), and a ne’er do well brother (who has to enter his apartment via the chutes that it shares with garbage). I enter the garbage chute and continue my journey through tunnels, ante rooms, and meet supernatural women.
In an anteroom chamber are a collection of women and their children–it is at the end of a tunnel, a rounded room with platforms that one can sit on. We are gathered around the perimeter. One mother asks her daughter to circle preferred items from a catalogue of clothing and toys that are all rainbow-themed. Another talks about getting her son, Alex, into falconry. A part-domesticated, part-wild, silver coated raccoon arrives. It is very large with a wide mouth and many small, sharp looking teeth. The women don’t seem startled as they expect it to come even though it tends to act erratically–sometimes wildly, sometimes tamely. This time it clamps onto a woman’s wrist, gnawing at at her sleeve and skin. I am most alarmed that she seems to allow this violence. I grab the raccoon by it’s scruff, shake it and send it away from us. When it seems to threaten to approach our platform, I scold it and scare it again. The women are delighted. I say that I’m good at wrangling wild animals and making them behave.
Looks like we got ourselves a monomyth to dreamsplain. Joseph Campbell, a mythsplainer if I ever read one, describes a monomyth as:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
In this case Hoa’s has not yet returned from her hero’s journey, she’s still in the midst of it.
The first section of the dream begins with Hoa having to save a once-thought-dead-but-now-not-dead damsel-in-distress from being incinerated. And Hoa’s the only one who can do it! Classic hero assignment. The obvious question for Hoa is what is this damsel about? What did Hoa consider to be over and done with, but recognizes now to be still viable? Possibly even necessary?
Along Hoa’s journey, she meets three men that she has to work through to continue her journey. Here we got the Rule of Three. The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Billy Goats Gruff, the three wise men. the three witches in Macbeth, the three fates, The Three Amigos, The Three Stoodges. Ahem. Suffice it to say three comes up a lot in fairy tales, myths and literature.
Hoa’s three men seemed to be: 1) Fame, fortune through popularity (which she immediately rejects because she recognizes how distracting it can be), 2) the sheltered, private & critical part of herself that inhabits its own space without public glare, 3) and the good-for-nothing who comes in with the trash.
Once Hoa gets past these obstacles/tasks/missions, she goes through the trash chute and and what’s discarded is also the way to reaching the SUPERNATURAL WOMEN. Definitely want to reach them and see what they’re all about. Maybe they have something she needs to save the damsel?
Hoa enters a chamber where women are discussing a course of action. There’s sorting, identifying and selecting what’s preferred. Separately the wheat from the chaff, as they say. There’s discussion of learning how to train birds to hunt other birds. What might that mean? Maybe using what you want to get more of what you want?
Then there’s that pesky raccoon. Animals are typically connected to instincts. Raccoons are intelligent, curious creatures who will rummage through the garbage at night to get the good stuff. Raccoons are also associated with masks, so there’s an air of mystery surrounding them. A bandit! But you don’t want to get bit by one. Rabies! This particular instinct is sometimes tame and sometimes wild and often troublesome. The women in this chamber haven’t been able to control it and been victim to its whims.
But in comes Hoa laying down the law. She has no problem wrangling this instinct, a much needed and appreciated skill among the group. A skill Hoa likely picked up earlier in her journey or perhaps from one past. Could gaining control of her raccoon-instinct be exactly what’s needed for the next stop on this journey? Maybe she can train the raccoon to rummage through the trash for her? Is this something she needs to save the damsel? I’m thinking yeah.
Where is this journey taking Hoa? Who can say, but it appears to be bringing her someplace where she can be of great use.
I love it when poets are considered useful!