Rainbow Valley

poetry by Jill Mceldowney

Rainbow Valley

It is morning and my body is eating itself. 

The antidepressant detox is not sad or brutal or funny at all and 


I’m starting to believe


what someone I love keeps telling me: 


“If you are not careful 

you will spend the rest of your life writing about your childhood.”


I’m not careful I say 

And childhood is just a little death redacted. I am worried—


about brain damage. I’ve done it

of course, this is what I do


when I have access to catastrophe.


I find myself writing like a boxcutter ticks open over and over: 




Letter to a Dead Racehorse #4: Dear Alydar,

poetry by Jill Mceldowney

CONTENT WARNING: abuse. Please read at your own risk.

Letter to a Dead Racehorse #4: Dear Alydar,

The last time we spoke,

I was out of my mind.


I think I said I saw your ghost, I don’t know

what I saw—it was raining so hard—


or was it snowing?


The weather tricks me into seeing

things that aren’t there and it doesn’t help

that I am getting better

at believing what I tell myself is true.


The bad bad dreams bleed

into bad nights and—


what bad life have I said to you?

And does it matter?

Alydar, we have so much in common.


Do I need to tell you about that  

deep freeze, breathing slurred

the glisten of streetlamp to bone

or do you already know?


I want to tell you this story without admitting

that I am embarrassed of the abuse—

like it’s romantic—the way the shards of bone

in my wrist light up and pulse when the temperature drops.


I know what I should say but I can’t explain

without admitting my failure and I am

avoiding my own


truth I am avoiding

the truth

on purpose, dear


Alydar if you had lived you would understand.

Letter to a Dead Racehorse #7: Dear Alydar,

poetry by Jill Mceldowney

CONTENT WARNING: intimate relationship violence. Please read at your own risk.

Letter to a Dead Racehorse #7: Dear Alydar,

Love says one thing and means hands


slammed in the bathroom door during an argument.

                   Love says it does not matter


whose blood is on the mirror. Love holds the body

at knifepoint and—

of course I still love him.


Alydar, are you worried about me?

You shouldn’t


worry. Please


don’t worry.

I know what I’m doing. Against his violence


I douse a rag with bleach, scrub blood from the splintered door frame.

Sometimes this is my way

of hitting back and sometimes

I just hit back.

                   Don’t worry about my hands,


the ice


I press across their split joints,

    or the arthritis settling into the alleyways of my wrist.


I don’t believe the clock

will do its thing. I don’t trust it

when it tells me

                   time heals all—


all time has ever done

for me is teach me

                           love is supposed to feel like fear.


Don’t be afraid for me, Alydar. I am learning

how to take care of myself

                   like a racehorse drinks from a scythe.


I am not worried about staying alive.

                   I am worried about the person I will become if I do.

I am worried about the person I will have to look at in the mirror.

Sometimes he is a mirror.


Sometimes he is the mirror I talk to myself in.

I say:


                           “You are afraid of him.”


I am

afraid of myself. He is not normal. I am not normal.


Is this normal?


Is this what normal people do?


Jill Mceldowney

Jill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook "Airs Above Ground" (Finishing Line Press). She is a cofounder and editor of Madhouse Press. She is also a recent National Poetry Series Finalist. Her work can be found in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Vinyl, Muzzle, Fugue and other notable publications.