Tuesday, 22 May 2012

An Unfound Box

09:24:00 Posted by Lara Clayton , , , , , 3 comments

In my dream, I found myself returning to a small North London hospital. I hadn’t been back in ten years, and now in the real world – due to underfunding and cutbacks – it had been forced to close.  But in my dream I went back. I went back to collect a box that had been given to a man that was like a father figure to us. His firm but fair ways helping us to find new paths, new choices and new beginnings; he was everything that made the place right and good; he was the reason that so many of us survived and were given a second chance to grow up. 

The box was delivered anonymously. There was a small white envelope taped to the top – the doctor’s name spelt out in blue block capitals – and a brief letter explaining that the box was meant for me. And there I was, older and more alive than I had been when I left, standing inside this ‘home’ of my past, in front of the man who’d made it all possible.

When I opened the box, there were about ten items all wrapped in pink tissue paper - and as I started to open them, I realised that they were things that I had once owned. There was an old notebook from 2001, a small black button from a cardigan I no longer owned, a book I thought I’d lost and the childish comfort blanket I’d thrown away. I don’t know what the other six items were, I woke up... I searched for the box – thinking  for a moment that it was real, that I’d brought it home – before realising it had all been a dream. But, for weeks afterwards, the box dream kept resurfacing in my consciousness; there were questions about who the mysterious sender was, what each item meant and what the dream was trying to tell me. I wanted to go back there, back into that very dream, and finish unwrapping the past – but I never returned.

On the evening prior to this dream, I had read Christopher Reid’s poem ‘The Box’. It had done that very thing that some of my favourite poems do: it had made me stop, think, consider. It expressed something that I understood; it articulated emotion in a comprehensible manner; it asked to be reread and remembered – it was one of those poems that I wished I had written.

For me, poetry is a little like dreaming. It encompasses a first layer, made up of the physical things that you can see and touch, the concrete things, the individual lexemes with their fixed denotations / dictionary definitions – but beneath, if you search, everything is working on another, more personal, level. A poem is multifaceted, it asks to be engaged with, it asks something of its reader – and it gives back with a meaning that is more than the sum of its surface components. These are the types of poems that I love; the ones with the undercurrents of meaning, where the connotation of each word (or word cluster) is working just as hard (if not harder than) the first layer. That when you revisit, years later, a poem that you thought you knew, has changed – because you have changed, because you have grown, because you see the world differently, because experience, life, mood and maturity all feed into the reading process...  Because nothing stands still... Because sometimes we’re not ready to unwrap each layer of meaning, because the poem chooses to hold some of its secrets back – like small parcels wrapped in pink tissue paper, a great poem will leave us to wonder, and we’ll keep returning, going back and hoping that next time we’ll be able to unwrap another pink tissue papered item.

Thank you for reading,


Lindsay said...

I love this post, it's rare I have a dream that lingers with me but they are usually the ones that are the most haunting. I think you're right, we do change as we get older and we can take different things from writing as we get older.

vicky ellis said...

Insightful analogy Lara. Perhaps the subconscious realm is responsible for both poetry and dreams. Hmmm...

Ashley R Lister said...

This calibre of post is one of the many reasons why this blog deserves to win an award.