summer silhouette by justin copy
How to Summon the Dead to Dreams
by Sara Clancy

I wish I knew.

Don’t bother gazing at photos, sharing
old stories or ritualizing your set of mindful
cues. Your dream will be about a late paper
or your car losing its battery on the ice hill
between Laramie and Cheyenne.

Don’t listen to the song she hummed
or read from the hardbound copy of Emma
she gave you. Twice. Don’t make her favorite
angel cake with fudge icing. You will dream
her old blind dog begging crumbs
from your empty plate.

If you try to shake loose a visitation
by recalling a slight or word you wish
you hadn’t said, you will only wake
at 3:49 a.m. night after night
after night.

Don’t cast spells to the chrysocolla marker
where her ashes lie or the hummingbird
feeder that hangs above. You can keep
that green glass bottle filled with sugar water
and sorrow, but it won’t help.

When she does show up in your childhood
kitchen to whisper a wise reminder you won’t
remember in the morning, don’t try to call her
back or recreate the day before. She will come
and go as she chooses.

PHOTO: Summer Silhouette by Justin, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I realize that this poem is kind of a cheat. A how-to for something that can’t be done. Still, I wanted to go through the litany of trying because nothing is as comforting as meeting lost loved ones in dreams, and though I can never actually make that happen, each failed attempt brings them briefly into focus.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sara Clancy is a Philadelphia transplant to the Desert Southwest. Her chapbook Ghost Logic won the 2017 Turtle Island Quarterly Editors Choice Award. Her poems have appeared, among other places, in Off the Coast, The Linnet’s Wings, Crab Creek Review, The Madison Review, Open Arts Forum, and Verse Wisconsin. She lives in Arizona with her husband, their two dogs, a cross-eyed cat, and a 26 year old goldfish named Darryl.