Dream State. An essay by Ralph Culver

The pandemic has been doing things to people’s sleep. During most of my life I have occasionally remembered a dream, and sometimes I might recall a snippet or scene from a dream with some detail, but there is almost never a context for the scene. In other words, to whatever extent my dreams have a narrative, that element is nearly always lost to me.

Not so the case last night, when I was awakened by a dream so vivid, with a storyline so complete, that I did something I’ve done only one or two other times in my whole life: I rolled out of bed and grabbed a pen and piece of paper, and scribbled out the details of the dream while it was still fresh in my memory and consciousness. I won’t relate the narrative here, since that’s not really the point and anyway the dream was very erotic and surely none of your business.

The point, I think, though, is this: the surreal nature of the reality of our lives over the last eight weeks has been so all encompassing and pervasive that daily life–what we experience as our moment-by-moment existence–has taken on all of the qualities of what I normally think of as a dream state. My movements are extremely limited; I’m confined to just a few very specific environments. My sense of time–its passage and where I am in its flow–is totally skewed. I’m possessed by the conviction that I’m in a perpetual state of disequilibrium. Functionality and purpose in my words and actions elude me. I’m not quite sure if I’ve done a thing I know I set out to do, or if I’m just imagining that I completed the task. And the list could go on.

In other words, I can barely tell my waking life apart from my dreaming life. I never really studied psychology, formally or otherwise, but I’m pretty certain that disturbing and vivid dreams occur hand in glove with post-traumatic stress, and isn’t that what we all have now? Isn’t that the corona, if you’ll pardon the expression, the great circle encompassing our lives: a state where the ambiance of daily life is unendingly post-traumatic?


Ralph Culver lives in South Burlington, Vermont, USA. His most recent collection of poems is the chapbook So Be It (WolfGang Press, 2018), available in bookstores and on Amazon. His new collection A Passible Man is forthcoming soon from MadHat Press. https://www.amazon.com/Ralph-Culver/e/B079Q5JNSK/

1 Comment

  1. Such a powerful final line! Thank you.

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