Chidsey Dickson



Toes

1.

The body is always looking
for something: water, fresh figs, movement,
a rival, a mate.

Say a few words, would you,

about the history of your toes?

The truth they brought you

about the world: sand, grass, mud.

The scorching sidewalk when you were 12,

and the girl you had a crush on who rode away

on her bike laughing at you after that little slap

on her rump. Or, years later, when you had no right to expect

anything more of true delight, the bewildering grace

of a lover's mouth. I'm all ears.



2.


A body turns in bed, levered by an aching hip,

the thin walls of sleep, dissolved. A pillow turns cement,

unhelped by the choppy, word-blurred voices

of neighbors walking from their cars, soon swallowed up

with silent lawns and doors, or maybe just further on,

people out trying to put their legs and hearts and lungs

to work out some knot of worry. I've done that before.

Your breath goes out little by little like rain leaves a cloud,

insignificant as that. How long have I been lying here?

Soon I will be old.



3.

Even if there are relatively few hitches, barely a pause,

only the slightest altercation between you and the world,

it is still probably worth asking—what am I rooting for?

Me: I want to walk under a garrulous canopy

to a place where there is always a communal fire

in the process of being made, people all ages throwing in

what they've brought or found or fished, everyone united

in their separate ways. I am also for the kingdom of more body,

more song, less sheer monotony: what we're given by our stone-deaf brain,

its ghostly pianola, its panoply of sawed-off idols. Finally,

I am for shortcuts, backsliding and doing whatever

it takes to cope with the loose and endless trouble of this tricky game.

We all move in clouds of unknowing; we can't just sit around waiting

for the perfect vessel, something nimbler, finer, more potent

than what has carried us this far. We've gotta hoist up, and give way.


Swimmer

all my life I have been reaching
for the tangible, searching,
like a drowned swimmer, for the beach—
nothing amazing, or transcendental,
just two bodies resting
at a table. The soul should be spared
from dreaming far distant things;
be satisfied with the light
of a storm lamp, a cold beer,
a long evening playing dominoes.


Ephemera

I stall in the corner of the thrift store in Tulsa, Oklahoma

where they put the shoebox of old postcards.

Even the wind is hot—one says, and I’m caught

for a half an hour, reading the felt tip scribble:

it’s like when a sermon leads to song,

the messages all begin with facts,

remote as glaciers now.

They weigh nothing in your hands.

None of them say: Life is difficult.

None say: I want to come home. Or: I must deal

with my sorrow or this will not end well.

Several say: Keeping busy!

Another: The rain finally stopped.

Another: Rabbits are everywhere. We’re naming
them.
I named one after you.


Palm

before electric lights, before modern artifice,

before HDTV and Picasso were household names,

it was enough to have one fine thing

kept in a box under the bed—a pearl-handled penknife, 

a rabbit's foot, a leather bound New Testament.

Now, we all carry a world within us

of what we are missing possessing

none of the charm of homespun papery dreams

of flying over treetops or living underwater,

little modest origami that fare pretty well

in your breast pocket or some kid's sweaty palm.


Light

what you could call my point-of-view, or soul

consists more these days of lingering half regrets

and laggard carelessness than gooseflesh rides

through mountain passes, trains spilling off rails

into a marvelous gorge—bodies thrashed and thrown clear,

refuge sought and found in an empty cave. Thought a bit pulpy,

but enough focus for one last memory: pine needles

on the lips and cheek, & the dark blue sky flashing

veins of light.



Chidsey Dickson teaches writing at Lynchburg College and volunteers at WordWorks, a non-profit tutoring and creative writing lab that serves middle school children in Lynchburg, Va.










                                    

 

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