Dream that descend as waterfalls
Illuminating diamond brilliance deepest night
The glowing tail of a shooting star
Flashes of lightning amidst menacing clouds
Lamp shining in an assassin’s cave
Upon awakening transparent as bubbles
Illusions in the watery morning light
See the endless things as a dewdrop
-I’m going to be late
-You’re always late
-Have we met before?
-You have always known me
Since the end anyway
-Quick hurry hurry quick
Up up and away
This is a bird
This is a train
This is a bullet
-I would like to propose
A dialectic of chance
-Rather a toast
To the innumerable charms of women
Jade eyed goddess spare ribs
Heavenly portraits exquisite sculptures
-Hang on that is rather rich
Coming from you that gives
A whole new world of meaning
To every derogatory term I can think of
-Blue blue neon blue
Flashes and blinks the colour
Of my mid-morning dreams
-Too many voices
Subject to a savage distortion
Sending the cats and dogs
Of the neighbourhood into
A barking yowling frenzied cacophony
-Of course this is utterly without consequence
-But it may in fact be highly significant
-I will give you sixty seconds of pleasure
A moment outside time
A concentration of experience
The naked truth the bare essentials of existence
I’ll open your eyes when you spread those legs
-Droning on vocals fried
Ante post meta
Morpheus alpha omega
-The legends of a life
-Monsters behind the myths
-Cutting scratched breaking
A chorus echo of amens
-Immobile face and as heavy featured
As an Easter Island stature
Watching waiting before turning away
-Now I’ll never make it intime
Max Ernst’s 1932 collage Le Facteur Cheval is a homage to the extraordinary creator of the Ideal Palace, that marvellous folly that the Surrealists so loved: Ferdinand Cheval.
Born in 1836 in the Drome departement of France, approximately 30 miles south of Lyon, Ferdinand Cheval left school at 13 with an apprenticeship to a baker, however he eventually became a postman. One day in 1879 while doing his 18 mile round in the small village of Hauterives where he lived, Cheval in his haste stumbled over a stone. Stopping to examine the cause of his trip, Cheval was stuck by the strange shape and beauty of the stone and it reminded him of a dream that he had fifteen years previously and which he had almost forgotten. In the dream, which he found hard to express in words, he had built a palace or castle or caves. He had told nobody about this dream for fear of ridicule, it felt ridiculous to himself. However the stone had brought back the dream and he put it into his pocket to examine at leisure.
The next day he returned to where he found the stone and to his delight he found many more stones even stranger and more beautiful than the cause of his near fall. Cheval said that the stones “represents a sculpture so strange that it is impossible for man to imitate, it represents any kind of animal, any kind of caricature. I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture.”
For the next thirty-three years Cheval built his Ideal Palace, pushing a wheelbarrow on his postal rounds to carry all the stones he collected. He frequently worked late into the night with the aid of a oil lamp, binding the stones together with lime, mortar and cement. The images of exotic locales that he saw on the postcards and illustrated magazines he delivered on his route inspired his imagination and found expression in the eclectic mix of architecture of the Ideal Palace, where Hindu Temple, Arabic Mosque and Swiss Chalet (among others) styles somehow form a unified whole.
Cheval, as he feared, was scorned by the local community, and his visionary Ideal Palace was derided as the work of a madman. This changed however when the project was featured in national newspapers and tourists started visiting. In 1905 a tourist register was opened. Cheval declared the Ideal Palace finished in 1912 and inscribed on the building ,”The work of one man.” He also stated his desire to be buried underneath the Ideal Palace.
Although Cheval comes across as a charming eccentric he was obviously a man of dogged determination, so when he learnt that French law strictly forbade his burial upon the grounds of the Ideal Palace, he set about building his own mausoleum, at the age of eighty. He spent the next seven years building another fantastical and beautiful structure. One year after its completion Ferdinand Cheval died and was buried in the mausoleum that he had constructed.
As well as the Surrealists, who would often embark on pilgrimage to a site which they considered to be a monument to naive art and the transformative powers of the imagination, the Ideal Palace was much admired by Picasso and Anais Nin, who published an essay on Cheval. In 1969 the Minister of Culture, the novelist Andre Malraux declared the Ideal Palace a cultural landmark and later in 1986 the Facteur Cheval was featured on his own postage stamp: a touching and luminous irony.
Today the Palais Ideal Du Facteur Cheval Monument Historique receives 120,000 visitors yearly and is considered one of the most outstanding examples of Art Brut/outsider art in the world.
The sensation started in my thumbs. A weightlessness, an unbelievable lightness. I rolled over and shook my hands, thinking I’d just been sleeping too long in the same position. The sickening sensation only grew worse. I lay staring at the ceiling for a time, willing for it to stop. It spread from my thumbs to my wrists and back down into my other fingers.
I slipped quietly from bed so as not to disturb Henry. He was never pleasant when awoken in the middle of the night. In the bathroom, I elbowed the light on to protect my hands, hands that no longer felt like they belonged to me.
The flickering fluorescent light intensified the ghostly sensation. I heard the sound of metal against porcelain and realized that my wedding ring had dropped into the sink. What was happening? In my panic, I let out a scream that echoed throughout the house.
“For God’s sake, Molly, what’s with all the noise?” Henry shouted irritably from the bedroom.
For what seemed like an eternity, I was rendered speechless. How could I possibly articulate what was happening? “Henry, please come here!” I finally managed. “I’m dissolving!”
It was true, I was dissolving like sugar in a cup of tea. My fingers, wrists and forearms had disappeared. It was like I was being erased, I was being rubbed out. The phenomenon was dissolving every inch of flesh and bone as it progressed towards my shoulders.
With a sigh, Henry leaned against the door. “Really Molly? I think you’re being just a wee bit hysterical, don’t you?”
“Henry, look at me!” I cried.
“Seriously, Molly,” he said, frowning.
“Can’t you see? Henry, I’m disappearing, I am going to vanish!”
He sighed heavily and went over to the sink. “Please be more careful, you dropped your ring,” he said, holding out the ring.
“Henry, help me please, please, please help me,” I wailed in utter frustration.
He placed it on the bathroom vanity. “I don’t know what is going on with you Molly. Come back to bed when you have finished with your amateur dramatics.”
I sank to my knees sobbing. My shoulders had been rubbed out and now my breasts were being erased. Those breasts that Henry had so adored when we had first met. This self, myself, Molly Matthews, this unique identity was in process of complete disintegration. It was becoming difficult to breath; in desperation, I inhaled deeply as my body faded. Now I was just a head, an unconnected head floating in space. Henry always said that I lived too much in my head. Now all that was left of me was this head. For some reason this thought made me laugh hysterically. The light flickered before shorting, leaving me in the dark.
I sat bolt upright in bed. I was sweating heavily, but that was OK. It was only a dream, just a dream. I moved my fingers, they were there. I touched my arms, thighs, belly, breasts –all still there, Thank God, it was just a horrible dream. I was complete, I hadn’t vanished or been erased. I was whole.
My relief was so great that I couldn’t sleep. Unlike Henry, who didn’t stir, even though I tossed and turned. Towards four in the morning my limbs became leaden with the accumulation of toxins, but I welcomed this leadenness. If anything, I wanted it to increase so as to drive away the disturbing sensation of lightness that I had felt so vividly during my dream.
My sleeplessness meant that I didn’t get up with Henry like I usually did in the morning. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling. I could hear him getting ready for the day. The same routine, breakfast with two cups of strong coffee, a shower and shave. It was Wednesday, so Henry always went in a little later, but he still got up at exactly the same time. As I lay there, I thought about calling out to Henry to ask for a lift to my morning class as my car was in the garage, but I was seized with a curious inertia. I realized we hadn’t really spoken to each other for quite a while now, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember when or why. When had we stopped acknowledging one other? How had we let things come to this pass?
I was surprised to hear the doorbell ring. Who could that possibly be?
I heard Henry open the door.
“Oh hello Jane.”
“Hello, Henry. Is our Molly around?”
“No she isn’t. I don’t know where she has got to, to be honest. Maybe she went to her classes.”
There was a pause. I couldn’t shake this listlessness that had taken hold of me, because I knew that I should have announced myself and stopped whatever was going to happen from happening.
“Oh, that really is a shame, I was so looking forward to catching that new exhibition in town with her. I have so being looking forward to it. Really.”
“I’m sorry about that, Jane. Seems a pity that you will miss the exhibition.” Again, there was a pause, longer than before, but it didn’t matter, I knew what he was going to say before he said it. “You know, Jane, I’m at a bit of a loose end today. How would you like it if I took you to see the show?”
“Really, would you do that for me Henry? Are you sure you haven’t got something else you need to do?”
“Well, yes… but nothing that can’t be postponed. A little outing with you, Jane, would do me the world… yes indeed, a whole world.”
“I am flattered, Henry.” I could almost hear the smile in her voice. “Well… I would like that very much, indeed.”
“Great! Excellent! Come in then, Jane, while I get ready. It should only take me five.”
I heard her heels click on the marble floor in the hallway. I just lay there, unmoving, staring at the ceiling, while my husband and my best friend chatted and laughed away to themselves, like they were alone, like I wasn’t there, like I no longer existed, like I had never existed.
After the front door had closed and Henry’s car started up and they drove away, I still didn’t move, yet part of me disconnected… I was in the rear seat of the car watching the glances, the smiles playing upon their lips, the tension generated between them –tension that could only be resolved later. After the exhibition and the lunch, Henry had paid the hotel receptionist in cash and had received the key card –handed over with a knowing and complicit look– and my husband and best friend closed the featureless hotel door in some infinite corridor and Henry cupped her face, like he had done so many times to me, an aeon ago, an alternate dimension away, a universe apart… and kissed her parted lips. That disconnected part of me observed what followed without surprise or emotion, that part of me had known all along that it would eventually come to this. Even if they knew they were being observed it wouldn’t have stopped them, so intent upon each other were they. They knew I knew they knew…. And it didn’t matter.
And as I lay there in the deepening shadow, inert, listless, desperate, I willed myself to wake up, this time for real.
This is the cakeordeath treatment of Dr. Meg’s story Dissolved. She very kindly let me play around with her idea, and I added an extra layer of existential dread, a sprinkling of sexual paranoia and a dollop of ambiguity. You can find the original at https://drmegsorick.com/2016/08/18/dissolved/.
In what may or may not be a dream scene (but what parts of the movie couldn’t be construed as either a dream or a fantasy) the incomparable Catherine Deneuve as Severine/Belle Du Jour, the haute bourgeois housewife turned daytime prostitute accepts the invitation of a sinister, decadent Duke to take part in a ‘very moving ritual’ at his country Chateau.