Dawn McGuire











Interpretation of Dreams


Occasionally we still dream each other’s dreams.

Our subtle bodies touch, and trade of  mysteries

while Night lingers in a tux on deck,

the ice in his glass throwing spangles of light everywhere.


He trades his red sash for a kiss from a girl

and she undresses him

and girds the Earth round with red.

So it begins, Morning,


while Night, forever on the make,

is recovering his wooing clothes

to drink again and slip

the drunken deathless longings

to his bastard children down below.



The Chief’s Dreams Ending


We are a blessed people.

The first offspring of the feast years

already walk beside their mothers,

and their long, straight bones

make travelers take them for the children

of the Western race.


When the mother’s belly is satisfied

she makes her children beautiful with love,

teaching them things useless

except in the days of fullness.


But today I touched the clear eyes of my children

as if I could turn them forever

towards their tender, useless secrets.

For in the night I twisted like a snake

beneath the Goat God’s hoof:


a night without dreams,

the first such in seven years.


How late the Sun came

to lift me from my bed,

and I lay stricken,

not by vision

but by its absence.


Goat-headed God, do not deceive me.

If my dreams have taken enemies

put the sword in my hand yourself.


But first press its sharp side

to the soft part of my palm

so that I know, by bite of pain,

what this day requires.






Cantar que vaya al alma de las cosas

y al alma de los vientos

y que descanse al fin en la alegría

del corazón eterno.

— Federico García Lorca



Cantar que Vaya


The way

the Everyday

expects us

to go on and on

so quietly,


like the little dog

tied to a tree

who finally

stops barking—


Alma de los vientes,

carry García Lorca

back to us,

that his slender


may slip


the ligatures,

the ones

that silence us



Dreams of a World Series, San Francisco, 2012


1. Light from 668 fixtures, temperature sixty-two degrees. The crowd has been loud all


Morning, the slightly injured will report their slights to the clinic, where the receptionist will not take home a living wage and will be rude. In Grayson, 2,488 miles away, there’s no excuse for rudeness. Fifty-four percent of the people (~652) will disappear into the homoerotic ads for Budweiser. They’ll eat everything white and buy the baby monitor as seen on TV.

Pale, triggered, vaso-constricted, the new Bayer migraine medicine may not be enough.

Grow where you’re planted is sort of what Voltaire said. Rusty French. I do somehow

remember that West is never where the twain shall meet. Will any Easterners, speak up?


2. The man in the Moon is mute but his acne scars say touch.

Full prayer involves a nakedness not even the skin can cover.

The loss is suffered.

But you run the bases with a lot of emotion anyway, whatever it is you saw— the armed robbery, the petty predation, the caseload with no-one on top, the fracking engineers walking the grid, the dead man in your yard—because there is also some relief. The person who was secretly plotting to blackmail you moved to Caracas. Two Buds at the game yet spared the humiliation of a DUI. (You were perfectly frank and nobody made you afraid, not even Colonel Mustard).


3. Thursday also was a good day. You got away with a double negative. At the reunion dinner,

no one used the right fork. Back home, the circumstances weren’t even mysterious.

An instant replay put your mind at ease.

Where is the Lion’s Club, the Elks, the Veterans of Foreign Wars

is not a helpful question.

If you want to kill yourself when you stop smoking,

don’t take the Chantix.


4. It really is up to you and me. Yes, I am lonely. But I believe it’s self-imposed.

Where is the host and why have we been brought here

is not a helpful question.

« In my opinion » doesn’t mean what it seems. I secretly enjoy being wrong.

You? You said you were on the case since day one.

We can’t help being wired for hubris.

I’ll breathe in your suffering and, always the optimist, you might breathe in mine. Next time: when a day belongs to you, even if it’s noon, shout out

Rise sun.



Signing the Papers


The shimmering aspens wave you over

on Highway 4. At Angel’s Camp

ghosts rising off hot asphalt

pretend to be bent light


It’s all unstable air

The psalm is my shepherd


The hasp on the locket is broken

All that silver, all that gold

The gold of no replacement

The silver of wishing


Acceptance is

torn tin






Brain at Dusk


Dusk falls like a minor third,

the interval of regret.

The backyard is hung with

speechless sheets,

not dry, not wet.


Wind lifts them up and lets them fall.

It is not night, not day,

but a mute third thing, tense

with emptiness. Anyway,


go make dinner.

Fruits, meats, leafy green

regrettables, raw or cooked.


It’s 6 pm.  This time of day

my father is always twelve.

Earlier he sneaked away

from his shift at the brickyard

to go to school


As usual, he comes home

to a whipping.

As usual, I can’t do anything

from here.


Night arrives with bruises

and the complicating stars.


My father becomes

an educated man

who shouts in his sleep.

He never raises his hand

in anger; teaches a daughter


to name the constellations.

In the dream, they start with Orion,

who cleared the beasts off Chios,

and whom Aurora loved—


Dear Neocortex:

Gripped, tight as a fist,

around your diamond sky,

why talk empty-handed?






Black Gold


…in the friction between two words

worlds will be lost

               (misquoted from Sohrab Sepheri)


Who belongs to whom,

is not so much a question

as a kind of hair


to be yanked off in anger,– fistsful

of street-fight tumbleweed

roiling towards the 3rd street grate—


or to be rubbed smooth with oils

by a lover, or brushed by a good father,

or dressed up in tribes and packs,


affinity groups, announcements of worth,

or brushed out in chemo clumps,

or left on the pillow after night terrors,


or brittle-split by bad water, or turned white

overnight when the Messenger comes in a dream.

Or cut off as a sign.


In South India, women shave their heads

for Govinda; 70,000 tons of hair a year

swept into gunny sacks for China.

The temple gets a hundred dollars a pound.

China sells the hair to Hollywood

for wigs called « Darling » and « Brandy ».


The women never know.

Would it matter?

Words, worlds apart:


eternal, commercial,

trapped like women

on either side of a garden wall,


one bald, the other a disaffected

blonde wearing a wig called « The Duchess. »

Both tip their faces towards the sun.











Dawn McGuire is a neurologist and award-winning author of The Aphasia Café (IFSF Publishers, San Francisco, 2012) two other poetry collections, Sleeping in Africa and Hands On. She grew up in the hills of Appalachia and was educated at Princeton University, Union Theological Seminary, and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Her poems have appeared in various literary magazines, anthologies, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Most recently, she was co-winner of the 2011 Sarah Lawrence/Campbell Corner Language Exchange Poetry Prize, awarded for “poems that treat larger themes with lyric intensity.”  She is Professor of Neurology at the Neurosciences Institute of Morehouse School of Medicine, where her research focuses on minority health disparities in stroke and dementia. She divides her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and Atlanta, Georgia.



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