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Published: Thu Jul 1 2010
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Words in Dreams

A horse
_           _ goes clock clock
on the green tiles.
_           _ Words
press my forearm:
_            rolltop chrysanthemums_ . . .
What a kindness
_           _ of the old library mind
to open its books
_           _ and let me borrow
all night.
_           _Another time rougher,
the librarian
_           _cuffs me to stay awake
as long as it takes
_           _to hush the hearsay
of the dark.
_           _I’m whipped with a bit of grapevine.
When I again lie back
_           _my hair is cold
against my neck.
_           _Slept-on messages have their fevers.
Don’t go away don’t go away
_           _plain      aloud     unwritten.
In time they release the bough of my drowse,
_           _set out in freedom,
slip past my eyes.
_           _That’s why words in dreams
need binding,
_           _folding in covers,
why they pine for cloth, tree, leather.
_           _Authors make books out of insomnia.
Pamphleteers sleep best.
_           Me?  A few clear pages.
No, less.  Two lines.  And I believe in them:
_           Illegal sun vote,

walnut loon.

Sandra McPherson is the author of twelve poetry collections, most recently Quicksilver, Cougars, and Quartz (Salmon Poetry, due 2020). Her latest poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PloughsharesAGNI, Whitefish, Red Wheelbarrow, Poetry, and elsewhere. Founder and former editor of Swan Scythe Press, she taught poetry for twenty-three years at the University of California at Davis and for four years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her collection of sixty-seven African-American improvisational quilts is housed at the UC Davis Design Department. (updated 4/2020)


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