The Fourth River

A Second Look: “She Dreams of Muddy Water” by Sarah McCartt-Jackson

By on December 3, 2014


Dreaming of, Again and Again

 -by Taylor Smith, The Fourth River Staff

            IMG_0305I have read and reread Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s poem “She Dreams of Muddy Water” repeatedly, hoping to, perhaps, uncover some truth from her exquisite lines. I hope that I might, in rereading the poem, discover something tangible that I can carry along with me from day to day, so that I might share it with others, to say, “Yeah, I picked this up from McCartt-Jackson’s poem in the 11th edition of The Fourth River.” But no matter how many times I roll over her words, or her words roll over me, I am left wanting to know more. I want to understand. I want to believe that there is a mystery to be solved. And I want to solve it.

“She Dreams of muddy water” is a six lined prose poem consisting of one long run on sentence. The title itself is the beginning of the poem, the first line, which gives us the subject of the poem, “she,” and the verb “dreams” as it sets up the refrain. She repeats over and over, at the beginning of each line, “of,” as in, “she dreams of muddy water,” or “she dreams of her children watching her trace the oak knot floor, of wind that stirs inside the chimney, of seven kinds of rain…” And each phrase, unrelated to the next, carries with it such emotion, such vividness, that there are few words that might be able to express its impression. I find myself reading the last line of the poem, “of unlit homes housing unlit rooms,” and inevitably being carried back to the beginning, rereading the poem all over again: “of her children watching her trace the knot floor, of wind that stirs inside the chimney.” What is it that leaves me so fascinated—what is it that makes the poem so endearing? Is it nostalgia? Wildness? It is eerie and surreal, as we might expect from a prose poem, but it elicits more than capricious surrealism—there is something intentional about each line. It is reminiscent of a cold December night, of something foreign and distant, of Christmas, of snow.

Curiosity, fear, adventure, these are the emotions evoked inside of me as I read Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s poem, “She dreams of muddy water.” What are the seven kinds of rain? Is the wind that stirs inside the chimney cold? Is it afraid? And the pine needle rugs hooked by a good fire, what of those? I want to walk through this unlit house and light each room, one at a time, until whatever it is that I am searching for is found, until I am beside the fire, with an empty bag folded over a chair, listening to the coyotes howling somewhere below an old moon. “She dreams of muddy water” deserves a second-look, and then a third-look, and then a fourth, until the moment that we are there with her, dreaming of…