In Their Own Words

Trey Moody on “Dream with Gun and Five-Year-Old Daughter”

Dream with Gun and Five-Year-Old Daughter

Hours before the divorce was final, the day

the divorce became final, I woke, knowing the dream

I had just dreamt could not be touched, the dream

in which my daughter took the form of a half-dog,

half-human, the dream in which my half-dog,

half-human daughter did not know she was dying

and had to be put down, her slow, slow dying

unable to interrupt her continuous smile, her Like this,

Daddy? as she tried to make me laugh, her Like this,

Daddy? though she already had been shot

to stop her suffering, her body calming, already shot

in the dream that real hours later became the day.

Reprinted from Autoblivion (Conduit Books & Ephemera, 2023) with the permission of the poet. All rights reserved.

On “Dream with Gun and Five-Year-Old Daughter”

Sometimes a dream in a poem is a lie. The dream in this poem is a truth. I mean this was a dream I had. It actually “happened,” whatever that means. It feels more like this was a dream that had me.

Since the poem narrates itself, I’ll add that I remember frantically yet carefully writing these words down that morning, that morning which was a culmination of tension building toward the kind of release that offers no real relief. As the words accumulated, I heard echoes. I’ve learned to sometimes surrender to impulse, so I kept echoing back. I often draft in prose. This was lines. I didn’t know I was going to repeat an end word until I did. It seemed like a logic I needed. Something to hold onto. So I followed that, too.

Sometimes a form allows something impossible to be said. I said more than I thought I could. When I wrote what my daughter said to me in my dream, I felt the beginning of the end. I was shattered. Weeping. My dreams are generally benign. Of course grief is ongoing, continuous. The end’s a reminder of the beginning. The end never ends. I accidentally found a form.

There’s another poem in this book in the same form. It’s another difficult dream. Twelve lines, the same end pattern. I don’t know what to call it, the form. The other poem I called “Dream with Bird and Two Bloody Teeth.” The bird in the poem is a magpie, a bird that can remember its own reflection. Maybe I should call the form a dream mirror.

When I wrote “Dream with Gun and Five-Year-Old Daughter,” I didn’t have a dog. I have a dog now. My daughter’s six years older than she was in this dream. She calls our dog Lily Moose. Sometimes my daughter writes songs. She likes repetition, too. Grief is continuous. The end’s never an ending.

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