Jasmine Irvin

Cyclamen Dream

In the dream the potted cyclamen is exploding with an unrealistic number of fuchsia blooms. I gather them together with my hands, grabbing the blossoms and shoving them into my mouth with gusto. Through the window at the far side of the room my mother is standing and silently making a tsk tsk motion with her finger, waving it back and forth in the air, and then draws her finger across her neck like a knife, miming the classic dead face by sticking her tongue out. She’s trying to tell me not to eat the cyclamen blooms because they’re poisonous. I understand this, but it is too late because I’ve swallowed them all down already. I’ve never been able to make myself throw up, despite my best efforts. My stomach already hurts, but I wonder if it is psychosomatic. My mother makes no movements to enter the room, to speak to me with words, to save me. I find my husband in another room of this place I am in, tell him, I ate these flowers that it turns out are poisonous! I’m full of urgency and angst. He’s doing something else, perhaps looking at his phone, and responds with a placating, “oh, I’m sorry babe”. I am furious with him for a moment, wondering why he does not care about what will happen next. Suddenly so many words I’ve said to my therapy clients come tumbling into my brain, and I feel hit with the realization that I am being codependent. I stand straight, smooth out my dress. If I want to be taken care of I will need to be responsible for that myself, and if I need something I will have to ask for it directly. I clear my throat and try again. “Could you please drive me to the hospital?”

I wake. The dream stays with me all day. I’m going to pick my daughter up and my mother is in the car. I tell her about the dream, which she finds funny. She looks up whether cyclamen flowers are poisonous while we drive. The only information available online is that the tubers are poisonous, and that the leaves are actually used in Mediterranean cuisine. Nothing at all about the flowers, which is so unsatisfying. When I was a teenager my mom gave me a cyclamen that stayed alive until I was midway through college, and met its demise only because my roommate’s cat ate it. And didn’t get sick, come to think of it. They are moody flowers, blooming on the ends of slender translucent stalks that bend and wind their way toward the light. They will all fall down in a grand cascade if even a little dry, and will almost immediately jump back up after you’ve watered them. Not unlike me, perhaps. I recall an exhibit I saw of Alfred Stieglitz and friends at the Met when I lived in New York. I was particularly drawn in by an Edward Steichen photo called Cyclamen. I was so taken with it I spent most of my time at the exhibit circling back around to it, and returned on a second occasion to stare at it. I remember once searching for a print for sale, and coming up short. I look it up to show my mom, and to my surprise, the photograph, dark and silvery, primarily features a lovely young woman’s face, with the cyclamen nearly in the shadows, off to the side.