We’re accustomed to thinking of nightmares as dreams that allow us to feel emotions we wall off in our waking hours, the surfacing of subconscious fears to the conscious mind. But we don’t have a corresponding word for dreams that bring joy.
Harper invites us to imagine the complete and utter powerlessness of people on the slave block, particularly of mothers. Defenseless, unheeded, bitter, frail, shrinking, mournful, desolate. The adjectives heap misery on misery.