Patrick Dundon

Into the Iron

I was born onto a mirror.
For a moment, there were two of me:
the one crying, and the one
who only looked like he was.
The nurse wasn’t sure
which to give to my mother.
She picked one.
As a child, I was sure I could see
what others could not
and this was the source of my anger.
When I dreamt I could fly
I dreamt I flew downward
into the earth. No, not toward
death, that happens at the surface,
but past it, into the iron, the pressure.
When I ask my mother to tell me
the story of the day Mt. St. Helens erupted,
she seems impassive:
I was pregnant with your older brother.
The ash fell like snow.
We shoveled it from the driveway.
Yes, we kept a little in a glass jar.
No, I don’t know where it is.
Maybe I want to ascribe meaning where there is none.
Such an imaginative child, they said.
We all knew what that meant.
In my newest dream,
my umbilical cord
is on fire, like a wick.
I try to bite it off before
the flame touches me.
How tempting, the desire
to trace suffering
to its source, to eradicate it
the way my mother poured bleach
onto the neighbor’s rosebush
because it was overtaking our driveway.
The plant didn’t die.
That should have been my first lesson.
Where were you the day the earth showed its insides?
Could you feel the heat?
I was at your brother’s baby shower.
No, the doors were closed.

Patrick Dundon is the author of the chapbook The Conspirators of Pleasure (Sixth Finch Books). He holds an MFA from Syracuse University and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Witness, swamp pink, The Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. His work has received support from the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he serves as an editor for the Burnside Review.