“Last night I had this dream:

“It was evening in a room of my imagination. I discovered that with a bird-like stroke of arms, I could rise into the air and float above the floor. I called in passersby for a demonstration and found, to my mortification, that I couldn’t repeat the trick. I flapped about ineffectually for a time, feeling absurd, until the moment of giving up. It was then I beheld my feet, not planted on, but dangling inches above the floor. I dropped my arms with relief and floated to the ceiling, as gracefully as a helium balloon.

“I rose and descended many times more, embracing each of my audience in turn and lifting them up with me. It was as though we stood on an invisible pedestal that bore us up and down. When all had had a turn, I flew to the top of the wall to a row of small horizontal windows. I pressed through one of these and was momentarily out in a luminous night. There was another wall, another set of windows. Then at last I was free.

“A sumptuous landscape, more beautiful than life, rolled out before me. There were mountains just beyond touch whose shadows were every shade of violet. As I flew forth, there loomed up a haze of black winter branches that reached hundreds of feet into the air. They were hung with myriad icicles that sparkled in the starlight. I gasped with wonder at this celestial chandelier, and, as though one icicle had broken free and lodged magically in my heart, I felt pierced with joy, like the child I was beyond memory who first saw the rainbow iridescence of snow in the glow of an old street lamp. I began to sing as I flew. I saw a lighted arena and prancing horses that were animated drawings—not real. And I heard music that seemed to come from inside me as I dipped and turned on the wing.”




“Somewhere beyond gaze

myriad lilies are spinning beneath the sun

One flesh presses another

both shivering with forgetfulness

My white room is hot and bright

my body abuzz

cell and germ contending

Somewhere beyond hearing

a perpetual waterfall rains on a solitary pool

so deep in gloom

I reach it only on a waking rush of time

the instant when consciousness flies up

and captures images of the nocturnal mind

There the tigers and antelope gather

on a sand as fine as gold dust

and sagaciously discuss

the legends of my life

There I bathe in dream-deep water

where fish like marine butterflies flash


There I succumb to the muscular shadows

yielding, concave, to convexities—

and am seeded with intangibles”



“Sickness and a vacation from the habit of teaching…and I see myself, though I hardly recognize what I see. I would cry except that my sense of bewilderment is almost greater than my pain. I’m remembering the desperation that used to send me running out into the night in that first apartment. Now I pace the floor instead, from room to room, and as I pace, something inside me is coiling tighter and tighter.”



“Moods come crashing down on me like buildings

And I’m laid out like a stone

Flocks of hope fly up before my eyes and are gone

As if they never were

And I don’t believe in anything…but restraints

I want to tear at something

Or dash off the edge of reality

Into the nameless…what?”



“Write? I can only dump out my soul like a pile of smelly laundry. Write? Feeling subhuman, what do I have of humanity to communicate? I can’t see anything clearly, least of all myself, except in odd dreams, when I’m caught in the sweep of a searchlight. In the day I’m blind, and, like some wretched rat, I scuttle for my hole when I can. This house, this life, is a burrow to the bottom of hope. The only safety I know—the safety of the dead end.

“Anger. I feel fury at my dogged inadequacy to the task of believing, of tooth and nail tearing myself out of this lethargy. During the day, my brain toils through the savage overgrowth of self-recrimination, and by night, I only want to sleep—to be obliterated in nature’s merciful way.”




“A long faculty meeting. I was going to add ‘boring,’ but that goes without saying. I feel like a clod of dirt. Karl looked at his watch and made restless movements, saying it was four o’clock and he had to get to the stores before they closed. Louise, meeting chairman and his wife, retorted testily that he had taken up more time talking than anyone else. They continued to snipe at each other while the rest of us sat with carefully crossed legs and more carefully composed expressions. We’re all hack artists, designing our exteriors to meet conventional expectations.”




I began to write about my deepening depression:

“Habits. My only recourse to escape the clawing boredom, the gray non-ness of my life, has been to break them—the little ones, for I haven’t the courage to break the big ones. So I plopped myself down in a field of wildflowers one noon, and I went to the school late one night—to rule out squares on a piece of fabric so that the next day the children could draw their patch pictures for our quilt. When Karl came, later, he was so pleased to see me—for the unexpected company—that his pleasure was a ray of light in the obscurity, the ambiguity of our relationship.

“I took new ways to school and new ways home and lucklessly happened down each of the city’s cul-de-sacs. These outings—these minor forays away from habit—don’t help much, but they do a little.

“I think the nicest thing that happened all week was hearing from Ally’s mother that Ally had confided to her that she loved me—and that I was her ‘girlfriend.’

“Children’s love. I found myself wishing it were possible to be loved by another adult with that unshakable simplicity.”