862: Last Night I Had Such Good Dreams

862: Last Night I Had Such Good Dreams

862: Last Night I Had Such Good Dreams


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

One of the funniest conversations of late with friends is: who among us has a steady internal dialogue going on inside their heads, like a nonstop podcast, and who does not. I never hear myself think or have an inner conversation save for the occasional moment when I must quickly decide between unleaded or super unleaded, between almond or 2% milk. This probably makes you wonder how I am writing this episode, if I do not hear the words before I type them. Good question. Apparently, I am among those humans whose dorsal pathways, as a child, never matured to allow for an inner voice to develop.

And yet, so much of writing poetry involves listening to the deepest language within us. When I write a poem, my inner radio clicks on. I fabricate a conversation with myself. It requires hearing my past and the present. A poem’s unspooling, says the Irish bard William Butler Yeats, is like a “quarrel with ourselves.”

My friend Mike hears his words from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed. And even then, it is difficult to silence the intense discussions in his head. He dialogues with himself about everything from morning breakfast to his commute to work, to the many possibilities of his clients’ digital marketing strategies. No topic is too banal or too weighty.

Today’s poem points out that sometimes that voice streaming in our heads isn’t even our own. Sometimes words directed back to ourselves as lack of worth, the self-critiques that we vocalize, though of our own making, are sentiments put there by someone else.

Last Night I Had Such Good Dreams
by Jennifer Perrine

I woke myself up laughing, and today I went down
              to the lake and sat for an hour listening to ice
shift and break into endless shards, its creaking ceaseless,
              and I did not think of you much, or of how I am 
not as good as you were at making French toast, or rice
              even, how I cooked a huge batch to last me the week
and remembered too late how you used to rinse the grains
              to keep them from sticking, so I wound up with eight cups
of thick goop, and said to myself some Asian you are, 
              and when I forgave myself for fucking up the rice,
I wondered whose voice that was—yours or mine or the great
              collective mouth that hums through the cloud and thinks it knows 
best how I should grieve, says get over it already,
              and just for a while this evening, after I came back
from that vast expanse of water, those brittle crystals
              splintering and coming to rest on the shore, I thought
I had—gotten over it, or you, as I gazed up
              at the full moon rising through the trees and wondered how
another month had passed, and I said out loud to that 
              satellite—that desolate rock that does nothing but
orbit and reflect light and drive the tides—I said look
              how far I have come, I am still here, I have survived
the worst of it, I woke up laughing last night, when was 
              the last time that happened, and when the moon answered back 
with its wild silence I realized too late I was
              never talking to the moon at all, that when I speak 
to an empty place, I am always speaking to you.

"Last Night I Had Such Good Dreams" by Jennifer Perrine. Used by permission of the poet.