1. European Union compliance message: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
Leslie Anne Mcilroy: Dreaming of Men
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • Selected poems from Leslie Anne Mcilroy's poem cycle Dreaming of Men.

    Dreaming of Men III

    I am dreaming of men again,
    men of uncommon desire.
    They are gay and beautiful.

    I apologize for wanting them,
    but it is easier to want what
    you cannot have. I know this.

    I have been given everything,
    the way a mother offers her
    oxygen mask to save her child,

    the way she dies in the giving,
    the way the child must live with
    this, every day, each breath.

    He was so pretty and I wanted
    to touch him, and that was enough—
    the wanting, the air full of it.


    Dreaming of Men IV

    I am dreaming of men again
    after long nights of drinking
    cheap vodka, boxed wine.

    I fill the glass of my sleep
    with their ice and intoxicating
    stupor, their skinny jeans.

    I don’t dress for them or
    pour another, offer
    them a light or a kiss.

    I sketch their pictures
    in a notebook I keep by
    my bed next to the juice.

    They don’t have eyes or
    mouths, only holes I look
    deeply into, wells so full

    of promise, parading about
    with their hair and noses,
    and this one, an ear.

    I whisper to him of faces
    he’ll never see and draw
    a heart where it might be.


    Dreaming of Men V

    I am dreaming of men again,
    splendor like waves crashing
    against Moher cliffs, sunlight

    and star sheen, the nipple
    just shy of seen, hot breath
    of possibility, de-si-re.

    But then the whales show
    big backs and iconic tails
    splashing like monsters

    who know nothing of fish
    bowls and limits, who can’t
    stop eating the mishap

    in their mouths, who can’t
    help their size and the way
    it displaces, disturbs, distains.

    If they had hands they might
    hold a daisy to the light, spout
    about how the last woman

    swallowed could have been
    a slave, a siren, tasting more
    blue than water, than salt.


    Dreaming of Men VIII

    I am dreaming of men again
    except they are blood and
    stain everything, like this shirt

    I am washing, this mitten.
    They can’t keep themselves
    from gushing, untamed

    and stupid, some wild rush
    of crazy-dumb red they
    call heart and soul and own.

    They believe they are lineage,
    tallying numbers after names
    proof they come from somewhere.

    I sit naked in the piazza, belly
    big and water breaking. I call
    them to me, say how ice

    gets the blood out if you
    catch it/soak it before it dries,
    if you bleach in boiling water,

    which burns but not so much
    as this fever, or this cut on my
    wrist, which I hold up to gush,

    a fountain middling the village,
    where children play, splashing,
    (boys mostly) and they run.


    Dreaming of Men X

    I am dreaming of men again
    I wear pink pants and a black
    shirt so I know it is a dream.

    I am not so much interested
    in why the man chooses me,
    but in his wife, who is mad.

    Ends up I am a hermaphrodite,
    which you can imagine is strange,
    even in a dream, even now.

    He does not seem disappointed,
    or even there, lost in the early
    REM when I wore pink.

    I could analyze this to death,
    but suffice it to say, I don’t
    need him to pick me.

    I have my own cock and it
    seems good for something,
    except how to get it in?

    Logistically it’s a nightmare
    and stroking so indulgent, and it’s
    ugly, too, red-tipped and pointy.

    And then there is my brother
    who appears with his head
    hollowed out from the top.

    I can see inside the cool, empty
    curve of his skull, like a shiny
    black bowl. I am worried it will rain

    and his head will flood, but he
    is smiling like he knows something
    I don’t, like he doesn’t need a brain

    to figure out I am just a girl.
    Like he knows I won’t tell a soul
    how we got this way.

    Cover art: Photograph of a painting titled “A world as cunningly hidden in its maze of confused drapery as a fieldmouse in a nest of coloured ribbons,” by Karl Mullen.

  • Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her collection Rare Space and the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for her chapbook Gravel. She also took first place in the 1997 Chicago Literary Awards Competition, judged by Gerald Stern. Her second full-length book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Press in 2008. A new book, Slag, is due from Main St. Rag in 2015.

    Mcilroy's work has appeared appeared in Dogwood, Jubilat, The Mississippi Review, New Ohio Review, Nimrod International Journal of Prose & Poetry, PANK, Pearl, and elsewhere. She is managing and poetry editor of HEArt—Human Equity through Art— and works as a copywriter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her daughter, Silas.
  1. Leecrowell
    Detailed abstract description. The kind of balance and wit that works me to fascination.
  2. Thank you this is so great.
  3. Fag hag poems were very popular in the late 19th century. You uphold a noble tradition! Kudos!
  4. Michael Ashley
    What a lovely collection Leslie! Thoroughly enjoyed your work.
  5. Julia Schott
    "I apologize for wanting them,
    but it is easier to want what
    you cannot have. I know this."

    I do, too.

  6. Cheryl.Leverette
    Wonderful, Anne, really enjoyed this selection.  Looking forward to more.
  7. Leslie Anne Mcilroy
    Thank you. You are all very kind. I love Karl Mullen's work. He did the cover of my new book and my house is FULL OF IT!  : )
  8. maggie flanagan-wilkie
    Wow! #10 is the icing on the cake. Nice, Leslie. Powerful imagery.
  9. TrishSaunders
    Wow. What a stunning collection. The cover art is very well chosen.