To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Michael Ruby: From “Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep”

 with an afterword about the process

Everything else is set up
If this is why I sent you
They’ll come

Four, please
Go on, now it’s gone

The fingers are down
The necks
And we have cereal once a week

I might all of a sudden disappear
The match

Do you want to give yourself up to me?
What the guy was giving up
What did we say about that?
Hang around for which sister?
Who else would want it?
To make sure she won’t forget it

Don’t worry
It very well could be
He’s a great guy

Garrine, do you know?
Stephen Kern

Yell and give me a call
I would let you know

I mean
Did you know his name is Farino?
John Stern is not one of his many friends
Try Kenny

I worked the day before so much
I have far too good friends in this school
That’s one of the problems waiting for you

He comes down last night
Very funny, right
No, no-no-no-no
He didn’t scream
Today, he isn’t screaming

This I heard this morning
You might want to keep it

Wanting space-space-space-space-space
She has New York, hunh?
It is, it is
On my floor

We listened to the music for too long
And Gus and I were playing
It’s on it
Trouble is
The rock, the fly
And the song is
The citation
The thing is, have you ever heard?
Woodlawn Cemetery, please
Outfitters for the rich
I’m gonna give them three
Or one
Or maybe two
The natural, denying messenger type
It seems OK now that it’s almost over
Should be used by crooks
The household business
Not me
Some of it is doubtful
He starred often on the day
I don’t think that’s accurate
I’m sure you know how you’re gonna present this
Could you just tell me?
Why you got to teach?

And he’s partially asleep
The whole score on how to be successful officers
Don’t get upset over coastal puzzles
We had to match so much yesterday at sea
I took some money
I guess they take their money
Four hours a day, how much?
The underwear off
White Plains
I tell ya, if I was six minutes away
Tonight, I’m gonna have some problems
They’re still lookin’ forward to that—
Tell Mrs. Van Eager
June, June, June
The Kings’ argument
You know, we’re just angry at you
Chillmar, Chillmar
Chillin’, Chill
Despite the name, it’s really the first I thought
I don’t know
I don’t know
Grumblers had loads of things to change
I’m just checking if you can feed them

Everybody’s sick and I don’t know what to do
Vision, vision
A different kind of airlift
Three and call
Help the Braves, baby
Closing league
Time and anger
A deal is a deal
I don’t know the situation
In appearances
Yes, I are
Coming down the stretch, they do
This was a big problem
You are
You are us
What you told them
At some deep place
The bond was cracked and the Pomona iced
Together, that amounts to
Now do come back, combatants
To my apartment
These are words deep in your soul
A wood sword episode
Every morning, as you can see
Stand up and—
After Sidney was born
Hopefully, I am loved so much that—
Where in two weeks?
Very strong reasons

About Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep

When I was a senior in college, I took a course devoted to the writings of Sigmund Freud, taught by Prof. Philip Hoffman in the William James building on Kirkland Street in Cambridge, Mass. During that semester, I wrote down my dreams for the first time. I also noticed for the first time that as I was falling asleep, I would briefly hear sentences spoken by different voices, a few of which I recognized, such as my own or my mother’s. Four years later, when I spent a week alone before Christmas on Benefit Street in Providence, R. I., writing experimental poetry for the first time, I learned how to hear the inner voices at will. Lying on the couch, with a view of the Narragansett Electric plant through the bare trees, I would clear my mind of all thoughts and listen for a very particular sound, the sound of sand being poured on sand. The inner voices would begin as soon as I heard that sound. I found that after two or three inner voices, I would invariably fall asleep. To transcribe them, I had to pull myself back from sleep continuously. Edgar Allan Poe, in ‘Marginalia,’ describes a similar process with “visions” seen “only when I am upon the very brink of sleep.”

These are the first inner voices I transcribed:

How hard for it to be done
Oh, I see
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
It’s the way he’s doing that
…take Angela
There’s no room for a boundary—do you know?
You sound optimistic to me, David
After that winter, I transcribed inner voices roughly once a year for the next 15 years. Then, in 1999, I thought it might be worthwhile to transcribe a whole book of inner voices, taking more extensive dictation. I eventually came to view the book as forming the third part of a trilogy with Fleeting Memories and Dreams of the 1990s, documenting three “Varieties of Unconscious Experience.”

I have always tended to believe the inner voices originate outside me, perhaps as microwave broadcasts picked up by the silver mercury fillings in teeth, as one of my college mentors, the 1950s novelist and conspiracy theorist H. L. “Doc” Humes, used to teach long before the existence of cellphones and wifi. But they might be fragmentary conversations overheard and preserved in the course of life. They might be chatter created by the brain, just as the brain creates dreams. They might be some mixture of the three. They might be something else entirely. Whatever they are, I like the idea that we have this stream of voices flowing deep within us, rarely if ever heard. Each transcription could begin and end with ellipses, a minuscule segment of the continuous stream. More important from the point of view of poetry, the inner voices almost always speak a sentence or a phrase—a line. If the line is the unit of inner voices, then inner voices are a psychic underpinning of poetry; one of the ways poetry is embedded within us. We have this continuous multivocal poem “streaming” within us, only audible in the briefly inhabitable borderland between waking life and sleep.

[NOTE. “Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep,” a 100-page ebook of poetry and psychic research from Argotist Ebooks in the U.K., is available for free at]

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