Edmund Griffiths  

E d m u n d   G r i f f i t h s

Pyongyang of the white concrete

Last night I dreamt I was standing
in Pyongyang of the white concrete.
The sun was a nuclear explosion
sinking towards the West,
and I thought I’d take a tram
and go rattling in search of adventures
up an empty five-lane highway
as the tangerine flame of that sunset
danced in the ripples on the Taedong.
But this morning I was puzzled and uneasy
and I looked in The Interpretation of Dreams.
And Freud was a Kremlinologist of the mind,
skilled at deducing uncertainties
and stand-up rows in committee
from accidents of ceremony or placement,
confident he knew whose face
had been airbrushed out of the photograph—
though of course what he said would always
be blankly denied, if true,
and if false could never be refuted.
Yet I don’t think the mind is always
so bureaucratic or so assured:
at times it resembles rather
a crowd scene from the Cultural Revolution
where yesterday’s proud successes
wear the dunce’s hat
and the massed brigades of Ambition
and Hope and the Fear of Death
are again bombarding the headquarters.
And it seems there are also times
when our barbed and elaborate defences
are a prison, our autonomy isolation,
and—however we cheer ourselves up
with placards and choreography and spaceshots—
the unreason of things afflicts us
in our own devices against it;
or at least I told myself so,
still troubled by what I’d dreamt
in this ninety-ninth year of Juche
when the leaves were loosening on the trees.