Mark Conway’s “Tarot Card of the Dreaming Man, Face Down”


Mark Conway’s new book of poetry Dreaming Man, Face Down is out this month, and Conway will be reading this Friday at 7pm at Micawber’s Books. The collection deals primarily with the aftermath of death, and what those of us left behind must face.

His previous book of poetry, Any Holy City, was short-listed for the 2007 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Bomb, The Walrus and elsewhere. Conway directs the Literary Arts Institute at the College of Saint Benedict.

Here’s a poem from Conway’s new collection:

Tarot Card of the Dreaming Man, Face Down

Then it was gone, the beatitude

of your body,

while the rest lay, specifically,

there: black, black,

blue, heavy

as a dead dog, the back

of your legs

looking plastic, looking extra, trailing

behind the rest of you

like a mooch, like a goddamn moron and you

barely there,

already camouflaging yourself inside

the light and dark, mouthing

the prime numbers of eternity…

We gave you days to continue dying

and you did

after you were dead. We

needed time – poor relations

to arrive, to decide upon

the precise symbolism

of the flowers, to complete

the box, nail it into

position, to divest the body

of its slime, to call

your name three times;

to call you three times;

to call you by name three times.

And at first.

You wouldn’t go.

You own this body


thriving within the caucus

of microscopic insects and dazzled

acids there to burn you down to ashes

you over there, you

in your over-there work-body

of the soul, your hooded

spirit released and humming

like its crazy in the light.

Where you are, slipping

through the monstrous

inner membrane of the world,

you see how it works.

I, like a mooch, like a goddamn moron, live.

We waited for you. Two or three days.

Then an old man came and prayed.

– “Tarot Card of the Dreaming Man, Face Down” by Mark Conway, as it appears in his new collection Dreaming Man, Face Down, published by Dream Horse Press.

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