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Family with Dreams Cut Out

by Jenny Molberg

          after Bridget Lowe

The dream is not the anger, real as a dream, but what I did with it.

The dream is the only way in. The dream is I am my father.

The dream is I am not. Counting as I wash my hands

the fifth, sixth, the seventh time. I want to be kind.

The dream is cruel as my mind is cruel in its fear of cruelty.

As the oldest child the dream was that I was neither

the mother nor the father. But I kept losing my children.

We left town. We forgot to remember the brother.

Then the sister left too, ingested by the sky as a dying storm.

The dream is a childhood levitation.

I rose, I started the car, I knew the hospital route by heart.

Someone recently suggested that I cut the dreams out of my poems. This was well-intentioned advice, but it got me thinking about how dreams can be portals that open into poems, especially when writing about trauma. I wrote “Family with Dreams Cut Out” as a part of a dialogue-in-poems with my dear friend and brilliant poet Bridget Lowe. We’ve had many conversations through poetry about family systems of addiction and the codependency that can arise as a result of those systems, most of which we keep between us. I challenged myself to write a poem in which the dreams were the crux the poem turned on, playing with the idea that it is impossible to cut dreams from a family unit. In the poem and in life, dreams can be so real that they inform my own personal realizations and growth, especially when it comes to anger or hurt. The poem is thinking about the blurry delineation between dreams and the past self, and how to see anger as a temporary emotion, one that, when interrogated in responsible and empathetic ways, can move a family toward healing.

Jenny Molberg is the author of Marvels of the Invisible and Refusal. Her third collection is expected to appear in 2023. She is the recipient of a 2019-2020 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as scholarships and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and the C.D. Wright conference. Molberg's work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Tupelo Quarterly, The Rumpus, The Missouri Review, and other publications.