of you, which sideways grabs
me in waking: hands
cold washrags on a line at dawn, eyes
bloodshot-blue still as a frozen swing.
I was with you again, Ireland:
fingers of light through the curtain in Maam. Little joy.
The map a graded paper on our bedside table.
Nothing scares me anymore
except the past tense: how you walked through my sleep
like the street we lived on.
Campbell’s at Croagh Patrick in Westport, and Clare
Island curled like a sleeping child. You’d never turn me away.
Ruins in Antrim, that look on your face
when you said there is no tower.
Memory’s a long rope I pull through myself.
Cracked door, this wild slit of light. And shadow
under eyes like currants in a paper bag.
Forefinger and thumb to sockets, and silent
I dress. At the kitchen sink,
I hear my name:
your tenor from the empty living room.
Sadness rings inside me like a pretty bell.
you subtract your dance from the dark, and the world
opens like your arms, gets it wrong.
About “This Dream”
This poem, in its nascent form, came about after a 2014 trip to the west of Ireland with my partner at the time. It certainly felt like a struggle with memory, or more specifically, with the past. I had been thinking about the line, “Nothing scares me anymore / except the past tense,” and I began considering the connection between place, person, memory, and the self. The form, as I recall, was a bit influenced by D.A. Powell’s Chronic, which I had been reading around the time I began revising the poem. I was intrigued by Powell’s use of space on the page, by the poem being a “dream,” where memories of places, images, and people coalesced in a kind of push and pull within the context of the lines. I was hoping to get across the uncertainty of memory and the certainty of remembering, while acknowledging that these particular places and this particular person were still very much a part of the speaker’s present. It feels now that the speaker is explaining what is emotional fact, though in the context of the dream, still distancing himself from an acceptance of those facts. With the line, “Memory’s a long rope I pull through myself,” I had an image I could use to inform the stanzaic structure. It happened that both the imagery and underlying emotion, the content and form, were working to simultaneously disorient and center the speaker.
Cameron McGill is a second-year MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Idaho. He is originally from Champaign, IL. He received his BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois. Cameron is Poetry Editor for the journal Fugue. His work has been published in Poetry East, Measure and Split-Lip.
Judge Hadara Bar-Nadav writes of McGill’s “This Dream”: I was immediately struck by the precision and elegance of the form, a mark of craft that is evident from the very first line. Rich specifics supercharge the poem, delicious place names that build a world for the reader and are also notable for their delightful sonic quality (as in “Ruins in Antrim”). Deft syntax also energizes these lines as in the heartbreakingly short sentence: “Little joy,” which is wonderfully ambiguous (how wonderful that there is joy, how tragic that there is little of it). And the last stanza is a stunner: the ghostly aching of loss rendered in concrete imagery, as in “your tenor from the empty living room” and “you subtract your dance from the dark.” The last line is equally surprising and fresh: all the well-wrought imagery, the words, the world, get it wrong; the beloved cannot be reproduced or returned. A dazzling ending for a dazzling poem.