Patti Smith is my philosophical cowpoke. She appears in my drifting dreams; dialogue with her occurs while I sleep. Much like the “mysterious cowpoke [who] chanced upon in a dream to determine the course of the rock poet’s memoir, M Train,” Patti Smith reminds me, much like her cowpoke does, that “it’s not easy writing about nothing.”
It’s through these drifting dreams where her poetic loneliness takes me somewhere I feel accepted and understood. My approach to writing is taken from Patti Smith: scour your favourite reads collecting dust on your shelf, sit in solidarity in your favourite corner in your favourite cafe, eavesdrop on innocent, unknowing conversationalists, romanticize your favourite spaces in history and bring these midivil times to life.
Such magical and moving advice this is! Moved to believe that lyrical love and cherished characters can form your own prose. That there is a space between dream and reality where one’s story comes to life.
It was nearly dawn before I sank into sleep. I had another dream about the cafe in the desert. This time the cowpoke was standing at the door, gazing at the open plain. He reached over and lightly gripped my arm. I noticed that there was a crescent moon tattooed in the space between his thumb and forefinger. A writer’s hand.
“How is it that we stray away from one another, then always come back?”
“Do we really come back to one another,” I answered, “or just come here and lazily collide.”
He didn’t answer.
“There’s nothing lonelier than the land,” he said.
“Because it’s so damn free.”
And then he was gone. I walked over and stood where he had been standing and felt the warmth of his presence.
-Patti Smith, M Train
When you dream where do you go? Who do you converse with? Who do you play with? My subliminal characters range from real life heroins to distant dreamers who could only exist in a parallel universe. The conversations I have with these cowpokes past midnight are at times romantic and most times frantic. Most moments in the morning thereafter I cannot dissect the dialogue but in the rare tepid seconds that I can contemplate them they are profoundly magical. Midriff wisdom or insomniac madness these conversations do not leave me lonely. They leave me yearning for more.
Why is it that we lose the things we love, and things cavalier cling to us and will be the measure of our worth after we’re gone?
This is when I awake up again — or cannot be bothered to fall asleep for the first time. I rise (or fall) damned by the pondering of this question, “Why is that we lose the things we love?”. Is it really collateral beauty or damaged goods? What is the loss suppose to teach us? Are we meant to look for it or her or him in perpetual chaos of confusion and despair? Or are we met to be nostalgic between the sheets and hope for daylight to rescue us? Perhaps there is no infinite wisdom here nor nothing to measure other than our self worth and what the naked moments awake preclude to.
We want things we cannot have. We seek to reclaim a certain moment, sound, sensation. I want to hear my mother’s voice. I want to see my children as children. Hands small, feet swift. Everything changes. Boy grown, father dead, daughter taller than me, weeping from a bad dream. Please stay forever. I say to the things I know. Don’t go. Don’t grow.
Of course we want things we cannot have. Tempted, lured and devoted to the dangerous malaise of our pathetic hearts. Left longing in the early hours as the sun rises despite the fact that the setting sun never shone bright again for you. But we have to grow. We have to go. It is time to let go now. It is time to go experience the unclaimed and uncertain moments.
We seek to stay present, event as the ghosts attempt to draw us away […] Life is at the bottom of things and belief at the top, while the creative impulse, dwelling in the centre, informs all.
And then in a rare moment I sleep. Undisturbed with no visits from my tormented cowpokes. They have left me to rest. And with my eyes closed there is no imagination. For without their demented conversations no creativity stirs within. I need the ghosts of them to haunt my heart in order to put together prose. Nonsensical as it may be they — and their words — make pure sense to me.
I believe in movement. I believe in that lighthearted balloon, the world. I believe in midnight and the hour of noon. But what else do I believe in? Sometimes everything. Sometimes nothing. It fluctuates like light flitting over a pond. I believe in life, which one day each of us shall lose.