Jill Mceldowney

Dream Tree

We are in it—the swimming pool
hot, glittering, a passage
            opens between us and that place
where the pulse is taken.
We are playing that child’s game of guess what I’m saying underwater,

a game of who can stay
submerged longest,
            who could listen longest to the voices of the dead.

You say: “Give me your watch. I’ll time you. How long can you hold—”

how precious is time,
how long wine waits to peak,
how long love waits to set fire to our lives.

How long do we have
            before time fills our love with blood?

I look up at you across the swimming pool and I should not be afraid—
          I can see the bottom of the water
and it is safe and blue and clear—
but already you are beginning to blur.

And that’s not only because the edges of my vision are dimmed by chlorine—

time takes everything.

The ones we love the most         
we wound
the worst. I can see it—

one of us will give the other
            a wound the body’s ice was never meant to ice.

We will do it
because we say we love each other.

Wait with me, wait
for fingers of ice to climb you
the last possible moment—
before rising
for air or to leave—

But how could I ever
leave you?

Who better
            knows my gravity? Who will love me knowing
the cost of love is love? Who else
loves me blackout
            drunk, out of my mind, vicious

with this rare, never want this night to end,
with this leave your life,
kind of love?

You bring me wine for my hangovers,
to call me back from
my blood on the brain
            when I inhale too much water.

Time long stops the heart
This place
            is the place. This is where you leave me:
skull. teeth. Genesis.
I can’t tell what you are shouting into the water
            but the question never was what are you trying to say

it is how long will you stay
knowing all that we are promised is loss.
Promise me

when you think of me
            you will think of me
as a circle of light you would do anything to cross.

Promise me I will see you again
            even though I already know

 I will never

see you again. We will never repeat

            this night—not in the same way,
not exactly,
not when there is more
            than a swimming pool standing between us.

Each time the dream comes after

I will have less
of you.
I will to go back
            to before I saw the sky. I

will untie you.

I will take you with me
I will take you back

into this water. I will never move from this where,
this water where

there is you.


Jill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook Airs Above Ground (Finishing Line Press) as well as Kisses Over Babylon (dancing girl press). She is an editor and cofounder of Madhouse Press. Her previously published work can be found in journals such as Muzzle, Fugue, Vinyl, the Sonora Review and other notable publications.