I Dream of Fraternity

I’m in a motel room with my brother.

We’re soldiers in the American Civil War
and we’re young men. He invites me
to his side of the twilit room
to colour.

I use a dry felt pen on the trousers
of a fat, Eighteenth-Century
English lord. I colour them aquamarine,
the colour of innocence.

My brother touches my back with his hand.
I can’t believe my luck. My back feels
alive, revived. He kisses me. I feel how
tragic it is we will die young, although
I’m aware all lives are short.

Questions and Answers

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem? What poetic techniques did you use in this poem?

Nine years ago I asked a bunch of people to write down their dreams for me. I don’t remember how that idea came about, except I recall vaguely that I was interested in poems that came from ‘found’ language, or language not my own. Plus, I’m always interested in other people’s stories and I’m always fascinated by symbology, or how we load extra meaning onto words. And my best friend would recount to me some pretty freaky-amazing dreams. So for a week, about ten different family and friends wrote their dreams out and emailed them to me. Those emails sat in a folder for eight years, until last summer when I finally looked at them again. I’d pulled the text out of the emails so that I didn’t know for sure who had written which poems. There were some dreams that had familiar names in them—I could guess who was dreaming of Brian or Nettie, for example—but for the most part, the dreams were now random, anonymous. I began sculpting the language, first by editing out any unnecessary words, any repetitions that felt flat, any details that were more distracting than reverberant. In a few cases, I moved a line or two, but mostly the Dream poems are a condensed version of what was sent to me. I’ve used line length, breath, enjambment, the stanza, and shape to create emphasis, to play voice against rhythm against our visual reading of the poem as object. The Dreams, I hope, articulate some of the irrational magic of sleep, but give a sort of symbolic, resonant shape to desire.

This poem “I Dream of Fraternity” originally appeared in Queer Frontiers. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 224 (Spring 2015): 16.

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