I Dreamt Rapunzel Cut

My teacher said we’d know
we were really remembering everything
once we dreamt in French. My first
and only French dream
came in France, when I dreamt
Rapunzel cut off her own hair
and climbed down the fire escape.
She donated her ponytail to a charity
specialising in cancer wigs.
The heroes of this tale are the faceless people
who ensured her tower was equipped with
the requisite safety trappings.
I remember this because,
as my friends tell me, I have
an excellent memory. They ask,
Where did we meet? Or
Why’d we break up? Or
What was that thing he always used to say?
But why is it that I can remember
the names of everyone in my best friend’s first boyfriend’s family –
including the dog –
but not the name of that town I stayed at in France?

Beside that town, there lay the calmest lake
where two men in lovely clothes talked earnestly
beside a matrix of taut fishing lines.
They couldn’t choose which boat to take out –
the faster one (belonging
to the taller, blonder man)
or the more spacious craft
(the brunette’s).
The blond man scoffed,
I never fish in this dirty lake.
The people who fish here are lucky, because
they come to the lake with one task – to fish.
I don’t know where to start – two boats, and
one day off,
going nowhere, spending leisure
queasily –
that’s my money’s gift to me.
Naturally, I don’t remember the name of the lake.

I began compartmentalising episodes
by season, song, smell.
They would be fastidiously labelled
and kept
till they slid like the shadows of sharks – just visible
beneath each new day –
so a concrete walkway to the tiniest apartment
became lemon and poppy seed wrapped
in Gladwrap in a classroom
in the rain, which was
a man I’d only seen before in two dimensions
striding, tall and wired, through the room.
Memories, like dreaming,
are mental time travel.

At Sacre Coeur, I was thirsty.
My friend bought water.
Turns out that bottle contained a special liquid, formulated for the heavily pregnant –
but who would remember the French word for “diuretic”?

According to historians, remembering is an act,
So what we choose to remember erodes
the flux and variety of our experience.
My time in France was all about remembering –
I brought and lost a notebook containing half an entry. I took
and lost some photos. If I get amnesia,
it will be as if I had never been. That’s why, on the Eiffel Tower,
people gouge their names into the steely rungs.
That’s why we wake each morning and
blearily unload our dreams on each other,
or force our travel stories on any given audience,
like a rich man finally choosing his boat
and anchoring it upon the tide.

 

 

Lauren Strain (London, UK) is from Auckland, NZ. She likes seconds.