The Dream of Reason

The Dream of Reason

by Jenny George

NOOK Book(eBook)

$10.99 $12.99 Save 15% Current price is $10.99, Original price is $12.99. You Save 15%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


Jenny George’s debut showcases an astonishing poetic talent, a new voice that is intensely focused, patient, and empathic. The Dream of Reason explores the paradoxical relationships between humans and the animals we imagine, keep, fear, and consume. Titled after Goya’s grotesque bestiary, George’s own dreamscape is populated by purring moths, bats that crawl like goblins, and livestock—especially pigs, whose spirit and slaughter inform a central series of portraits. The poems invite moments of stark realism into a spacious, lucid realm just outside of time—finding revelation in stillness, intimacy in violence, and vision in language that lifts from the dark.

From “Threshold Gods”:

I saw a bat in a dream and then later that week
I saw a real bat, crawling on its elbows
across the porch like a goblin.
It was early evening. I want to ask about death.
But first I want to ask about flying.

Jenny George lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she runs a foundation for Buddhist-based social justice. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781619321847
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 72
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

The recipient of a 2015 “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Prize, Jenny George lives in Santa Fe, NM, where she has served as program coordinator since 2010 for Hidden Leaf, a Buddhist-based social justice foundation. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Ploughshares, Narrative, Cimarron Review, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Review, FIELD, Inch, Indiana Review, and Shenandoah. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fund, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo Corporation. She holds a B.A. in Human Ecology and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Read an Excerpt

Threshold Gods

I saw a bat in a dream and then later that week
I saw a real bat, crawling on its elbows
across the porch like a goblin.
It was early evening. I want to ask about death.

But first I want to ask about flying.
The swimmers talk quietly, standing waist deep in the dark lake.
It’s time to come in but they keep talking quietly.
Above them, early bats driving low over the water.
From here the voices are undifferentiated.
The dark is full of purring moths.

Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty
of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.
The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.
They capture the moths in their teeth.

Summer is ending. The orchard is carved with the names of girls.
Wind fingers the leaves softly, like torn clothes.
Remember, desire was the first creature
that flew from the crevice
back when the earth and the sky were pinned together
like two rocks.

Now, I open the screen door and there it is—
a leather change purse
moving across the floorboards.

But in the dream you were large and you opened
the translucent hide of your body
and you folded me
in your long arms. And held me for a while.
As a bat might hold a small, dying bat. As the lake
holds the night upside down in its mouth.
Everything Is Restored

He swallows the last spoonful
of prunes, their soft rapture
in his mouth. Then the jar
is washed under play of light,
then the boy’s mouth
is wiped with a cloth.
He squalls for a moment, then
stops. Everything is restored.
Chime of spoon in the sink.
The boy is lifted out of his seat,
legs swimming in the slow
element. He is a small seal.
The kitchen ebbs and flows,
sleek afternoon sunshine.

Now the boy is placed
in his crib, now he is slipping
into the silvery minnows
of his dreams, a disorder of shine,
particles of motion flickering
beneath the surface.
Harm will come to him. It’s the kind of knowledge
that ruptures and won’t
repair—an ocean that keeps
on breaking.

The day moves with the gradual logic
of drowning. Evening fills the house.
Oh, where are you? Where are you going?
The mother folds up the ocean
and shuts it in a cupboard.

Death of a Child

This is how a child dies:
little by little. His breath
curdles. His hands
soften, apricots
heavy on their branches.

I can’t explain it.
I can’t explain it.

On the walk back to the car
even the stones in the yards
are burning. Far overhead
in the dead orchard of space
a star explodes
and then collapses
into a black door.

This is the afterlife, but
I’m not dead. I’m just
here in this field.


It made a boy-shaped hole
and filled—

the way a crushed hand fills
suddenly up
with new pain,

or a well put down
taps the liquid silt.

The center pours
toward the surface.

Now the hand is given
to the earth.
The mouth draws up
and drinks.


There’s something uneasy in the field.
A wake. A ripple in the cloth.
We see the green corn moving
but not the thing that moves it.
The atoms of our bodies turn
bright gold and silky. Aimed
at death, we live. We keep on
doing this. Night unfolds helplessly
into day. Beyond the field are more
fields and through them, too—
this current. What is it? Where
is it going? Did you see it? Can you
catch it? Can you kill it? Can you hold
it still? Can you hold it still forever?


The conductor’s baton hovers
for a moment in the alert
silence (a silence that leans forward
saying This...! This...!) and then it drops
into the chasm.

Sound enters my body—enters the bodies
of all the people simultaneously,
calling them to feel together
an unconcealed fear, a cup over-
flowing, a sense of absolute love
vibrating in the dark passages—
the long-ago cry of pain
and the crack of light
coming in through the bars.

Table of Contents

Origins of Violence 3


Threshold Gods 7

Rehearsal 9

Everything Is Restored 10

Death of a Child 11

The Gesture of Turning a Mask Around 15

Troubles 17

Spring 18

Encyclopedia of the Dead 19


The Sleeping Pig 23

The Traveling Line 24

The Belt 25

Notes on Pigs 26

Obstacles to Handling 27

Ears 28

The Farrowing Crate 29

Portrait of a Pig as a Bird 30

One-Way Gate 31

The Veld 32

Influence 33

Vision 34

First Day of Lent 35

The River 36

Vaudeville 37

Westward Expansion 38


New World 41

The Cave 42

Sword-Swallower 43

The Drowning 45

Winter Variations 46

Reprieve 47

The Dream of Reason

Self-Portrait 48

The Miniature Bed 49

Harvest 50

Sonnet for Lost Teeth 51

Talisman 52

On Waking 53

Eros 54

A Childhood 55

Revelation 56

Spring 57

Mnemonic 58

Intelligence 59

Easter 60

Notes 61

Acknowlegments 63

About the Author 65

Customer Reviews