The Brain Fever Bird February 16, 2011Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
Henry lay in de netting, wild,
while the brainfever bird did scales
— John Berryman, Dream Song No. 5
It’s 4:30 a.m. in Richmond, 3:30 Central River Time and I lay in the bed after five or so hours sleep, my brain racing as it is wont to do with a hundred crowded thoughts, working out scenarios not for the next act or chapter or stanza of some fiction but for my life, favoring the worst outcomes as if I were speed reading one of those disaster manuals that were popular in the bookstores a few years ago. Perhaps it was too much coffee yesterday to stay awake through a day-long training, racing through my veins, but I know this happens far too often: awake at 4 a.m. wondering why, unable to control galloping thought, two giants wrestling–my limbic or as i prefer lizard brain clamoring for rest while the conscious brain spins and clicks like a movie projector and I think of John Berryman’s line: “the brain fever bird did scales”. I take half a pill to calm my nerves, as people used to say, and as rest slowly starts to come creeping back I think of some words I wrote a few months ago in a writers’ circle during free writing on the same subject, and this blog entry occurs to me and I find myself grabbing the cigarettes off the night table, coming over here to turn on the light and read that old exercise and write these lines, to find and quote from that journal.
I seem to spend most of the night in REM sleep, wake frequently from dreams all through the night. This particular disorder is a typical symptom of insomnia or sleep deprivation, but I am infrequently truly insomniac, often go easily back to sleep from these episodes. Is this a disorder in the clinical sense, or more a temperamental disorder of the humors, a part of who I am (Gemini, Sagittarius moon; blue eyed once (long ago) blond; shy at first but garrulous once started). Is it perhaps a reason why I am compelled to write, the Spring tide river of images and floating fragments of stories that rush through my sleeping brain? When I wake with only the vaguest notion of the recent dream but have grasped, in that moment lying in the dark, that perfect line I struggled with before and cannot sleep unless I write it down, perhaps under take an entire revision knowing I will suffer for it in the morning, I do not think this is insomnia but something akin to inspiration. The disorder is not my own but the world’s and the poem is the only antidote.