Six Poems By Melissa Dickey
no one knows their will
against the gray, a swallow glides
not possessed, you wish to be
the street smells like icing most mornings
but you can only eat your own heart
a wasp floats past the window, and the third story
seems high for a wasp
as you try to think everyone’s doing their best
you say it is hard to finish things
Last night Emily’s baby was born
only three inches long
but it grew quickly.
She put it in a dark cloth contraption
so it would feel comfortable.
Then she shook it around.
She could not go,
for to go was regions.
She pillows the twigs
of the live human nest.
Sees herself as a creature
wiped out for a wing.
Rises high the tide
whose problems rush into the meadow.
paused on a snow-hill.
quilted with denim patches
or splotched in antique mirrors
sun-sparked mudflat and a moving
mound of ice
crumbled cupcake in a dish
of sparse water
boxcar packed and rumbling
toward an arsenal
the last rag in
for Ian, for Emily
she thought the boy had told her a joke
it wasn’t a joke
then he died
the toddler chews a pacifier as a joke
and hides his face as a joke
he does not yet read
or understand the sadness of others
when you saw your old friend and she spoke so thickly
you thought maybe her teeth were falling out
as her mother’s had
but it turned out she was just hiding her braces
I’ve stopped smiling, she said
the toddler’s toys play samples of Beethoven
as if that helps
but he doesn’t care
he’ll dance to anything
You hear how birdsong’s made of little phrases, beads on a string, each invisible (barely visible) beat of the throat entering open air, like an aria, an aria of trees, of tiny leaves, of growing like a garden full of weeds you love to pull, the roots stringing down, clinging to the mound of dirt that is their home.
But you feel disconnected from your home, its call and response. Your dreams attach themselves to fire, and burn – not much to find but ashes there, and ashes, discarded, wasted, spread. So what ties you to this good beautiful world of what we see and hear and feel to think the way the field’s wet mornings and the skinks losing their tails in fear (even when we try to help what harm) but to stay in the center that gives and dust that begs and kids who cry.
Try to compete with the ringing, or don’t. Consider repeating a life, knowing all outcomes. People will keep dying, true.
We are right here – moving, as in a boat, or a train, going over and over the same track.
At the moment, Melissa Dickey is working on a new book of poems, expecting a baby, and teaching at Tulane University in New Orleans.