Jessica Purdy

I dreamed that

as we watched
the weatherman crush
his tin foil replica of a tornado,
you were trying to burn down
our house by wrapping the gas
fireplace with blankets
while our children slept upstairs.
“Don’t fall asleep,” you said,
as the air grew infernal.
In the logic of dreams,
I didn’t wonder if I should leave you
but listened, and awoke, ablaze.


What I Love About Dreams

Their open corridors narrow
to muddy birth canals
until I find myself flung up
to hover in a sudden sky then skim
upon eddies and whirlwinds,
down a sea of vortices.

Their town center has a waterfall
only the brave have navigated.
It begins at the church hill
winds through town, down
through the boulders’ elephant heads
to the mobile homes’ asphalt.

Their landmarks recur–a past home
or church, theater or school–
but the architect has put an ocean in the basement.
It’s okay, I like it better this way
with secret slides and doors that have never been,
but have always been open.

Theirs is the lodgement of memory forgotten
bringing back the glint of green from those glass
marbles we’d thumb down
the channels of exposed oak roots,
click the tiny globes of each of our worlds
against each other, as if they were the only reality.



An epitaph seen on a headstone in a dream cemetery.
Is this where you went, to a land of stars?

In my darkened bedroom one night when you were dying
I saw light through a squint of tears,

like a transmission winking out.
I thought I was seeing the exact moment

of your death. You lived for two more days.
It was hard to believe cars and people kept passing even after.

The fire in the trees not yet lit then
now sparks in the mists of mornings I can’t grasp.

I can’t hold in my vision
any scene on the verge of change,

any autumn meadow with horses’ grazing heads.
Their placement is as random as if dropped

from somewhere high up; their backs, studded
with sunlit dew, seem to hover between

the slats in the fence that divides us.



When I am painting and I have feelings
it is like I’m on a hunger strike.

The blue goes gray and neutral
I feel like a lost girl at the circus.

I am on a carousel, I want it to stop.
I am asleep in the tiger’s cage

with claws twitching—
dreaming, revenant.


At the Dream Museum

maybe they knew my young daughter and son
would visit today

so they’ve covered the glass coffin
with a tasseled brocade

if you lift it you can witness
a rape

a silicone woman
her open mouth hissing air

at the pressure of his knees
as he kneels on her chest

he covers her with his crab’s body
spider-crawls up to her head

perpetually climbs her like a ladder
his face plastic and mottled

features made from small doll parts
a torso for a nose

skinny arms for hair
she a doll herself

not much of her to see except
the hole between her legs

like the plastic babydoll I used to fill in the bathtub
and watch the water run out

my children hear it too
the breath escaping is not breath

but audible
even under glass and the heavy weight of art