Saturn is Heavier in My Dreams
My head’s getting squashed again, all low and squat
like I lived on Saturn or someplace like that,
where the planet is heavy, and a woman from Earth
can’t lift her head.
My feet drag like they do in my dreams sometimes,
and I don’t know why . . . like there’s a path
I’m trying to follow but I don’t know how
to walk, one foot in front of the other.
I’m surprised in the morning when I run to the bus
and my feet fly, knowing how to move.
Saturn is heavier in my dreams than it is in waking.
I used to peer through the telescope at it:
tiny in the sky with ears — that’s how Galileo drew it.
It was listening . . . listening to the dark, and glowing.
I want to call it a she.
She feels like a female to me.
I want to call her by some name
other than that of the old
god who ate his children.
In my dreams she has a deep, deep weight,
and every step I take is made of lead.
I try to put the two together —
the silent, listening ears
trying to comprehend the universe;
the roads I have been too weak to follow
cast in Technicolor
against my eyelids on difficult nights.
I am trying to be like her, listening,
stolidly walking her path along the ecliptic.
If I died now I would remain here, a ghost
haunting places I was afraid to leave,
begging the living to release me into
something that might move —
a river, somebody’s feet . . .
Saturn in her purposeful wandering.
[March 21, 1983]
About this poem
They — the sojourns into depression — used to be routinely a lot darker & longer lasting than what I go through nowadays. I’ve learned a lot about how to take care of them. Enough sleep, beware of overcommitments (& pull back when I have them), friendships of trust, along with healthy food & a few helpful supplements like 5-HTP, vitamin D3 (as reminded to me by a Facebook friend last night), omega-3s. Not immersing myself in bad news or political hatreds (which was kinda hard not to do this past summer in Anchorage, let me tell you; & the teabaggy birther stuff still going on nowadays, with acompanying ranty ravy hate-filled invective in reader comments on the Anchorage Daily News website is not a happy place to visit either). Even with all of this, the bad days still sometimes come. It’s just a matter of taking care of myself & waiting for the relief when they dissolve away.
But back in the bad old days of my self-hating youth, I used to get a sort of sick pleasure out of the bad feeling — like the Carly Simon song, “Suffering was the only thing / made me feel I was alive.” I had to sleep it off, like a drunk. And I didn’t like it if I felt it leaving when I was still awake. How’s that for messed up?
That began to change when I was in my early 20s, around 1983 & 1984. This poem marked the first time in my recall that I felt the depression dissolve away when I was still awake, & was glad of it. In fact, it dissolved away as I wrote the poem — which was one early evening when I was alone staffing the Alaska Gay & Lesbian Resource Center, at the time located (briefly) on 5th Avenue in downtown Anchorage. (At what is now, I believe, a small parking lot next to Keybank between F & G Streets, for what it’s worth).