Memories, Friends in Dreams, and Reflections on the Poet’s Life and some Advice to Young Poets: Seven Minutes with John Skoyles and Nancy Mitchell

Memories, Friends in Dreams, and Reflections on the Poet’s Life and some Advice to Young Poets: Seven Minutes with John Skoyles and Nancy Mitchell
June 29, 2021 Mitchell Nancy


John Skoyles with Nancy Mitchell

Memories, Friends in Dreams, and Reflections on the Poet’s Life and some Advice to Young Poets


Inspired by the idiosyncratic responses in the monthly “Poets Speak,” Editor-in-Chief Danny Lawless and I came up with the idea of a new video addition to Plume’s monthly issue; we’d spotlight a Plume poet’s responses in a zoom interview of seven minutes to some questions we’d cooked up.


Eager to hear more about the origin of his intriguing poems, particularly FRIENDS IN DREAMS, THE REVENANTS, and LAST WORDS, LAST RITES, LAST ACTS from “A Brief Portfolio of Six Poems” featured in Issue #110 October 2020, we invited the wonderfully wry, enormously entertaining raconteur and marvelous poet John Skoyles to be our first guest.


And what an amazing, brilliant guest he was! Our staff videographer and editor John Ebert and I had the agonizing task of editing a rich, engaging longer version of the one you see by using three of the original seven responses to our questions. If you’d like to see the longer version with John Skoyles shoot me e-mail @ and I’ll send you the link.



The pond flattered the foliage,
and our reflections

trembled at the rim,
as if showing

we were souls
in skin that would fall

from us like these leaves
this autumn.

We no longer breathed
between sand and sky—

we were with friends in dreams.
A kiss disappeared

into the mist near her face,
my palm passed

through his outstretched hand.
One turned the tarot deck,

another walked on his knees
down the center aisle

of the Church of the Typical Inhabitant
and at the rail

lit the wick of a burned-down vow.
I was enjoying my role

in this eternal animation
among friends in dreams,

when the best of them,
pierced by a diagnosis,

called from an office
outside my reverie

with the news
and the need

to leave the world
of make-believe,

asking that I take him home.
And there he was,

at the waiting room

staring into the sheer
sunlit maze

of streets and avenues
that ended here.




Meet the late Maurice Ravel,
his bolero banned and his name

damned as a bar to heaven
and a door to hell

at the Convent of the Seven Sorrows.

Enter my colleague
in critical theory

who spent hours
analyzing the horizon

from the bottom
of a well,

and one night tried
to understand

the tides by kicking
over a bucket of brine.

I bring your attention to
the Baroness von Tyebell-Schmidlein,

whose burning passions
cremated time

until her life was ash.
Here’s Preston, her son,

fresh from his yoga mat,
who inhaled god everywhere,

like air, but shot himself
on mother’s day,

her white gloves in his lap.
Why this parade of revenants

down the page?
I’ve tried my best to prevent

the last breath
of my friend on his deathbed

by introducing this circus
of the marvelous and strange,

and it worked.
I mean, it gave him

a final smile.
With a quick turn

of his head, he said,
“Why look so sad,

when you’ve brought
Ravel and the Baroness

back from the dead?”



One wondered where he parked his car.
A mother asked, “Why’d you write that book?”

The priest said it was a bridge
too far to think paradise was in the cards

for a soul away from church so long.
One kept crying, “Dry my tears.”

Another bowed to kiss a cross
and left some spit upon the Lord.

My aunt got angry when a niece
fit a cell phone to her ear

and sighed, “Say goodbye to Cousin Faye.”
The pest kept crying, “Dry my tears.”

My father complained his place in line
had disappeared just as he was near

to paying the cashier for a triple berry pie.
My grandmother said she had something

in her eye.
My roofer grandfather didn’t have time

to tell what was on his mind
because the scaffold fell.

A poet said, “Don’t ask about the tolling bell.”
The refrain we grew sick of hearing

was the sissy crying, “Dry my tears.”
Another, standing bedside

and staring at the ceiling,
said he saw a God

who didn’t care about sparrows,
hunger, war and strife,

or plans to gain eternal life.
He transcribed that writing on the wall

by scrawling across a pad
his memories of relatives and friends,

his mom and dad,
whose funerals left him

in arrears, and he signed off
with a line better written one less time,

“Dry my tears.”

Nancy Mitchell is a 2012 Pushcart Prize winner and the author of The Near Surround, Grief Hut and the The Out-of- Body Shop. She teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland and serves as Associate Editor of Special Features for Plume. She is the Poet Laureate of the City of Salisbury, Maryland.