Last night I read the second part of Dinners and Nightmares which is called “Nightmares”. I had a lot of dreams. A tan pitbull mounted a dark grey Italian greyhound and began eating it from behind. A woman was thrown into a gigantic waterfall in a plastic coffin. I was pushing my bike up a big hill and vomited on somebody’s pristine lawn. I understand the why of all of this.
My waking memories of dreams are always fragmentary. I remember moments and images but never the thread that connects one incident to another. Di Prima recounts thirteen small nightmares. She does not include times, places, or dates. Her descriptions vary from one sentence to a few paragraphs with her Beaty stuttering morphing from rhythmically repetitive to gapped and scrambled. As many of Di Prima’s dinners were nightmarish, so are her nightmares dinnerish, in that she is eating, is being eaten up by —
In “What I Ate Where” Di Prima recalled happenings and the happened. Her memories are straightforward and unquestionably honest. She doesn’t muse too much or reflect towards any end, she just remembers details in context. We are inclined to believe everything she says because why lie about shopping lists and bad meals? Food is an ordinary annoyance, compulsion, and texture of daily life, and “What I Ate Where” is concerned with the very real. But this is what makes it so intimate, her obsession with trying to recall a set of minuscule, already digested facts.
The “Nightmares” approach intimacy from one of the opposite ends of realism, the unconscious. Recalling dreams is usually an attempt in dramatization. We try to capture the intense wonkiness of time, place, and occurrences and fail to communicate how bizarre we really think we are. Each recalled nightmare is a personal failure because dreams are more powerful and interesting and weird and affecting than texts about dreams. We write dreams because we want them to tell us something that we don’t know about ourselves, or tell others about what we think we don’t know about ourselves, but usually all they do is enforce what we know about our situation, like a tarot reading. Is reading believing? Di Prima knows, but we do not know. But we know what we know about our dreams, and are all dreams but one dream? Both themed sections set up their parameter to invite us to muse on what is outside of this parameter.
What my dreams say about me: dogs, pitbulls, Italian greyhounds, dog-related violence, plastic, biking, big hills, bike-related pain, vomit, fucking up, feeling sick, food-related illness, water.
What her nightmares say about her: starving, letters, her mother, the beach, figures of authority, poetry, surveillance, Italian cured meats, spaghetti, roaches, raw meat, cats, animal death, fearing rape/men, depressants, knives, gods, one night stands, office workers, police, shock therapy, a vegetable brush, doctors, illness, murder.