Jill Mceldowney

Keen Ice


One winter is enough,


how quickly you’ve come to its end:


time passing under the tranquilized lake, the fitful halls of the dead

where your name is spoken as a winter of fear unspools, winter of

snow not so white,

this half dark now preceding the approach or wane of ice—


of all the bodies—


to put at the bottom of the lake you chose your own.


You try to outsleep it—the water he brought you to,

the embrace of the dead,

their chemical chill, their moons of filtered light,

your own frost blackened hands


but all you’ve thought is loss, the unstoppable darkness on darkness

of the water approaching on all sides.


Can you hear me—


the hour of headlights, black ice, police lights—


can’t stop the end that tells the truth about the beginning.




You aspired to a raw sky of silk, the brightness

of his body—a thaumatrope.

One side was the carrousel, one side was the horse


happily forever




You sung his name aloud in the wheel’s turn,

in the dreamland before the blood inhale of water.

The way was clear



as you’ll never be again.




You are sleeping.

Forget that day.

It’s just the effects of cold water are paralyzing.


The future goes darker


on the other side of ice, door, shadow, the bark of loons.


Rise to what you are drawn— the dead cannot yet claim you.


Here is this white room, let your heart beat, put your hair up,

here is this white monitor of memory—


Is it over?


Tonight, it’s the lake talking

in the voice of the pine knot snap of bone:

“Freeze to death or—“


leave this story with a fear of dark water.


Here is some water.


Drown like a hard shove down a staircase—it means rising—

it means another girl at the bottom of a lake

it means following,


the cold’s departure as it leads

down the luminescent hallway

of some dead to be walked through.


Dream of hands to unlace you. Could you wake—

without apology—

What was the question?





Tonight, the carrousel in the park,


is still



turning by itself,

tuning the wind to voice,


the horses back—

horses always return to their fallen.


You are not sure you can live without

this bad dream tangle of bed sheets. You want to know

it is possible to love someone without wanting

to put your hand between the vale of their shoulders

and shove.


He is always—


missing now when you speak his name to the empty,

expecting back

an answer.


Talk to the dead:

“Today was a very good day,

it’s a good life

it feels and

come now, radiant, come—“

like nostalgia as a bruise rings its way toward vanishing or becomes


his blue coat, across a parking lot—the last time you saw

the weir lights of January—

he was alone, was beautiful.


The ending is a clock in the water.



You think—maybe


he is the living person on the other side,




open up my hands,


they tremble the season toward waste,


You don’t want this anymore

than he does.


You can’t be promised no pain.

You can’t be promised that you will never again

claw the underside of ice—

it keens—

but tonight


drag your own body from the water by the wrist.




cry your own name across the water’s blackened surface.


Walk the moonlit path over the unwalkable water.


Here the horses come in the dim, their footfalls distant,

moving faster, faster— here you go breathing,

reach for their echoing soundlessness.


Press your ear to the earth, the lips of its mouth, and


here’s a little life back— now

can you live it.





Jill-Mceldowney-Dream-Pop-PressJill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook Kisses Over Babylon (dancing girl press 2016). Her work can be found in journals such as Vinyl, Fugue, Corium, Ghost Proposal and others.