Dream Salad

keep your letter hands numb

letral linens

saffron grit on orange poland


onday onsirgence

is salt maybe a better way to go than “learn”?

my guy is more shemuai in the shemshai sen sense

a lindsay bovine thing did nothing with oregon

dark looks winced steam

wielki niewiadom kapitan jabłek



szeptem przytulał anglarz

co nasi gracze byliby z butalowa gdyby odpowiedź ich przeciwników widniała wyżej

ingestia może dostrzec się siostrze raczej tylko gdy się mija

oferując wytrwałe kotły monopobielu zieleni

tyks mi świeci


Some ten years ago I noticed an intriguing, satisfying occurrence that sometimes presented as I was waking from sleep: an awareness of a deliberate string of words, coupled with a sense of their normalcy and tremendous significance. I ’m not referring to words spoken or heard in the context of a dream narrative; rather, the words were the dream. Occasionally, I would manage to remember this snippet of language long enough to be able to write it down—and it was only after the memory itself was gone (usually hours or days later) that I would happen upon the proof of it, illegibly recorded in my confused, somnambulant hand, and discover that the words had not been coherent at all.

I began to understand that this curious edge-of-consciousness phenomenon was a near-daily dose of overwhelming intellectual pleasure, almost instantly forgotten. Some barriers to documenting my experience were of course environmental—no notepad by the bed, no time to study the subconscious in the morning rush. A significant barrier was built into the experience itself: as these linguistic dream sequences unfolded, they seemed clear and ubiquitous. What’s the point of writing down something that seems important, vivid, and as plain as day? But the greatest barrier was physical: when we dream, we are paralyzed from the eyeballs down. How do you grab a pen with a hand that’s still sleeping?

Over the years, I’ve become diligent about keeping a pencil and paper at arm’s reach, and I’ve been able to collect enough examples to attempt a preliminary analysis of these dreamed wordstrings I sometimes experience. What is obvious is that these are operations on morphemes stored in memory: their effects are less abstraction, more surrealism. I’ve also noticed that it’s the words and morphemes that become ungoverned by rules, not the syntax. The phrases I capture have a definite tendency toward not mixing Polish and English, though exceptions exist, both on the grammatical and lexical levels. Capitalization is mostly a non-parameter, with the words written in my case-agnostic shorthand scrawl, but at times it does figure significantly into the wordform on paper, or into my aided memory of what I wrote.

There exists a psychiatric condition or symptom called schizophasia (less formally and more widely known as word salad), which describes a similar linguistic occurrence in the mind of one who is awake (if not necessarily lucid). It is typically a symptom of mental disorders associated with manic and psychotic states, or with types of aphasia. In dreams, however, it is a perfectly normal, if somewhat rare, sub-class of dreaming, and it is then simply referred to as dream speech. However, because in my experince this is not stricly a phenomenon tied to spoken words, maybe calling it dream language rather than dream speech would more accurate.

Long ago, I stopped searching for magic meanings around me. The combination of plain old randomness and the mind’s pattern-seeking impulses completely satisfies my need to explain the world rationally, with all its apparent intentionality and all its improbable wonder. I relish my collected phrases not as messages, but as evidence of another language, one spoken not exactly by me, but rather by my mind, when it thinks I’m not watching. If these delectable strings of drivel are just synapses firing on autopilot, running their maintenance software, they are still priceless finds, capable of inspiring creative and analytical thinking in my waking life.

As a writer and namer, I admit I occasionally scan my bedside journal for inspiration when I need to stoke the fire of divergent thinking. (To be exact, it’s not the journal I’m scanning, but the Evernote log into which the journal contents are periodically transferred.) There are also some lines of this dream code that I don’t share anywhere, because I’ve used bits of them as my online passwords, for the way they manage to combine both the necessary randomness and that irresistible personalized sentimentality that usually gives most passwords away.

Humorous and poetic, inspiring and practical, these seemingly poignant sequences of words are satisfying for many reasons, but maybe their greatest value lies in the way they chronicle the elusive process of observing and recording them. For me, anyway, it is this feat that bridges reality and the mysteries of the mind in a way that ranks among my most amazing experiences.