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Renee Ashley


The Revisionist's Dream (I) 

Old as seawater. And the dream as large as a sea.
We dream like that. And longer than that. Wider.
And hear the sound of bleak bells like flat stone
on flat stone. We stand—our hands are empty
and the floor is steep, the floor is a deep sea
with fish like stones who call like bells. Like
brittle bells. And the song is running water.
And the water is rising.

And the prison we choose
is narrow, and we swear we never dreamed those walls.
So the way the light breaks out from the night
is how we break away, how we carry our lives
like a sack or a sadness—and we are merely river;
the water is sweet is shallow is slow but the dream
is dark and smoky, like a woman’s hair let down.
It winds like that.

The Revisionist's Dream (II)

She dreamed and the dream was of language. She dreamt
words had yellow wings, had a thousand delicate fingers,
had big tusks, had balls—that their mutable voices rose
from some distance and carried to her on a blue wind. No.
She dreamed of water. She dreamed of a single bright leaf
tangled in a dark stream. She did. But you can’t take

her literally, and the story changes all the time. Take
the time she told you about the memory: that she dreamt
the whole world was memory, and that the recollection of leaving
was really a leaving again, was motion itself like a dream, light-fingered
light-footed. That leaving was blue and red, had wings but had no
dreams of its own. And memory like that—like getting up, rising

from a favorite chair, your legs working, your body rising
with no more thought than the dream taking off from sleep. But she’s taken
some liberties; after all, it’s her dream—she’s dreaming it—and she knows
the dream itself knows nothing. The story changes all the time, yet the dreams
seem true enough—but truth is a fitful thing, time is quick-fingered
and slick; and she thinks time does have wings and is the color of truth. She believes

in at least a million truths and in time sweeping them into a heap like leaves.
She believes that most of all. And she’s certain that new dreams rise
from the gathering, use their wings like fingertips,
like the dead waking and, somewhere between rest and will, taking
up their touch again. But no, it’s foolish to believe her. Her dreams
are pale language—but there’s still the sky, the white, nomadic

clouds, their silhouettes against the blue, their histories, what nobody
expects of heaven. No: it’s different. The dream is exactly the size of her life. And ordinary. It leaves
the enormous and abstract aside, calls up the hard, black, dreamy
streets and the dark smell of tar. Calls up the good white dog, brings back the wild rose
streaming up the dogwood like ribbons and flowering in the air. And language like that, taking
advantage of what truth leaves behind. But it’s hard to put your finger

on it because the story changes all the time—the dream is light-fingered.
But the colors are true: the yellow light rising, not on the blue wind,but as if yellow could know
what it takes to rise. As if yellow had dreams. And language like that, too, always taking
the borrowed shape of time, the coming and going, a cloudy promise crossing bright water; the leaves
on the other side shimmer in the wind. But the story changes like the wind and now a red bird rises                                                                                              
at the dreamer’s feet, a great heart, and beats the blue air: the heart dreams

of language flying, it batters the air like fingers drumming, one word leaving
off, the next swept up on the arc of an innocent wing. And, risen,
the heart takes direction and the dreamer is lost—yes, unimportant—deep in the language and dream.                                    

The Revisionist's Dream (III)

Not that he stole the fire, but that
the body of flame continued there.
And separate, continued—the flame

from the center of the flame,
what fire is. And the dream,
like that too, and the flickering

dance it does. No point: to argue
with the gods in their difficult
clothes, no hope in setting traps

for what we imagine fire to be.
We are all outside the center.
The only way in is to burn.

                 -from The Revisionist's Dream




Kim Addonizio 03-14-08


Agha Shahid Ali 09-14-07


Alice Anderson 11-16-08


Renee Ashley 04-10-2010


Christianne Balk 07-27-07


Brian Barker 07-07-07


Polina Barskova 09-13-2010


Bruce Beasley 11-22-08


Nicky Beer 09-06-2010


Nicky Beer 08-22-08


Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09


Ciaran Berry 01-25-09


Linda Bierds 08-31-07


Kristin Bock 08-17-09


Bruce Bond 02-18-2012


John Bradley 03-12-2012


Brian Brodeur 03-29-09


Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010 


Sophie Cabot Black 03-26-2012


Anne Caston 09-24-09


Anne Caston 02-27-2011


Elizabeth Biller Chapman 01-25-08


Nicole Cooley 04-05-09


Stephen Cramer 02-14-2011


Nicole Cuddeback 03-07-08


Steve Davenport 03-29-2010


Cortney Davis 05-03-09


Todd Davis 11-01-2010


James Dickey 03-12-2012


Stephen Dobyns 02-26-2012


Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08


Karen Donovan 04-15-07


Mark Doty 04-11-08


Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010


Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010


Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010


B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09


Elyse Fenton 04-25-2011


Nick Flynn 01-28-2012


Nick Flynn 10-04-2010


Rachel Contreni Flynn 04-10-2011


Carolyn Forche 09-21-07


Carrie Fountain 03-21-2011


James Galvin 02-23-07


Margaret Gibson 01-24-10


Mary Jo Firth Gillett 02-22-08


Dana Gioia 08-23-2010


Eugene Gloria 09-20-08


Louise Gluck 03-17-2010


Kevin Goodan 08-29-08


Matthew Graham 11-28-2010


Robert Grunst 11-16-07


Bruce Guernsey 9-13-2011


Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07


John Haines 11-01-2011


Donald Hall 02-10-07


Sarah Hannah 11-25-2011


C. G. Hanzlicek 04-23-2012


Jeff Hardin 08-10-07


Elizabeth Haukaas 09-13-2011


Brooks Haxton 03-08-10


Seamus Heaney 09-11-09


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Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09


Lynda Hull 05-20-07


Henry Israeli 01-23-2011


Major Jackson 05-02-2010


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Rodney Jones 10-26-09


Barbara Jordan 02-02-09


Ilya Kaminsky 11-18-2011


Daniel Khalastchi 8-30-2011


Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08


Jane Kenyon 04-01-07


Suji Kwock Kim 11-09-2011

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James Kimbrell 01-19-07


Galway Kinnell 11-09-07


Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07


Phil Levine 06-03-07


Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08


Larry Levis 04-04-08


Larry Levis 02-08-2010


Lisa Lewis 02-11-2012


Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08


Corey Marks 10-03-07


Adrian Matejka 04-18-08


Davis McCombs 01-18-08


Jeffrey McDaniel 10-08-2011


Michael McGriff 02-22-09


Jay Meek 01-16-2010


Anne Michaels 01-18-09


Nils Michals 02-29-08


Keith Montesano 12-12-2010


Malena Morling 05-12-08


Simone Muench 02-08-08


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Sharon Olds 10-19-07


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Eric Pankey 09-07-07


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Ed Pavlic 09-28-07


Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010


Lucia Perillo 12-04-09


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Donald Platt 02-15-08


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Joshua Poteat 11-3-09


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Dean Rader 03-07-2011


Amy Randolph 03-01-09


Robert Randolph 12-12-09


Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010


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David Roderick 12-07-07


Bobby C. Rogers 02-04-2012


Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08

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Katherine Soniat 01-21-2012


Katherine Soniat 11-30-07


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Mark Sullivan 08-28-09


Mathias Svalina 04-02-2012

Frank Stanford 10-25-2010

Mark Strand 02-22-2010


Mark Svenvold 03-23-09


Robert Thomas 05-03-2011


Brian Turner 05-13-07


Joshua Vinzant 01-30-2011


Tribute to Virginia Tech 04-24-07


Connie Voisine 10-1-2011


Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07


David Wevill 03-27-2011


C.K. Williams 05-25-07


Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07


Charles Wright 01-27-07


Robert Wrigley 10-11-2010


Robert Wrigley 08-17-07


Robert Wrigley 04-09-07


Robert Wrigley 02-03-07