Poems by George Dickerson 
[Hear George Dickerson read his poems on Omniversica's Show # 7, recorded 7/9/03. All poems are reprinted from George Dickerson's Selected Poems, Rattapallax Press, 2000.]

A Mist of White Horses  [HEAR THIS POEM READ ON SHOW 7!]
George Dickerson

Tell me you have not forgotten the rain,
Close by the Mediterranean Sea,
Promise a mist of white horses again!

In the marshy sedge of the delta's plain
Where the white horses of Camargue run free,
Tell me you have not forgotten the rain!

Why we should meet I could never explain,
Except for a squall's serendipity;
Promise a mist of white horses again!

Huddled together like two sheaves of grain,
Strangers sheltered under a wind-whipped tree;
Tell me you have not forgotten the rain!

Well, this led to that and that led to pain,
But what severed us was not surgery;
Promise a mist of white horses again!

I've stumbled into an arid domain
And counted the days to infinity;
Tell me you have not forgotten the rain;
Promise a mist of white horses again!

Copyright © 1997, 2000, 2001 by George Dickerson

Dentistry in War  [HEAR THIS POEM READ ON SHOW 7!]
George Dickerson

Leaning in, his drill a weapon in his hand,
Hachem sortied into the molar's core.
I could read the braille of sweat
On his oily face, acned like downtown
Souks pocked with bullet scars.
"Your mouth's corrupt," Hachem said.
I thought of Martyr's Square
And the bomb-blasted stumps
Of the center's rotten teeth.
"Root out the cause," Hachem said.
His hairy finger probed
Like the snout of a foraging pig
Or the blunt nose of a Kalashnikov.
"The nerve must die," he grinned,
Imagining himself the perfect
Executioner, imagining himself
On barricades, firing away,
Committing murder in the name
Of hygiene, without anesthetic,
Smirking while the city screamed.
"I hate the killing," Hachem said,
"It's such a waste of dental work,"
Digging deeper still, as if to excavate
The ruined Roman stones beneath
The crumbled, bankers' vaults,
The war-wrought jaws of East Beirut,
As if in my poor slobbering mouth,
He could wipe out recent history,
Eradicate the offending caries
Of civilization gone awry.
I thought of flesh falling away,
Of teeth like gravestones
Marking the cemetery of the skull--
All laughter gone--incised
With Hachem's demonic skill.
He was a man of sensibility:
Leaving in my sinus a pool
Of formaldehyde to combat
The germs that might yet try to live--
Embalming sentinel of his domain.
I protested the coming hurt;
He cursed and shouted, "Screw your pain!
What matters is my artistry."
Oral butcher of West Beirut,
How many of the mounting dead
Smile the rictus of your dexterity?

Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001 by George Dickerson

Down Tunbury Road
George Dickerson

Down Tunbury Road
I met an old man
With hair in his ears
Whose task it was
To sharpen the brambles.
His fingers were scarred,
But he seemed content,
For raspberries grew
From the blood of his hands.

Down Tunbury Road
I encountered a man
With a rime-crusted beard
Whose job it was
To swing the great tongue
Of the bell of the sea.
And he seemed content
To rub salt from his hands
To flavor his meat.

Down Tunbury Road
You may find a man
Who stays up all night
To weave words for a cloth
To dust off the stars.
It doesn't pay much,
But they say he's content
To have poems in his hands
To polish the moon.

If you happen to wander
Down Tunbury Road,
We'll sit here together
And share a few suds
In Tunbury Pub;
For once you start out
Down Tunbury Road,
You can never go back
To Shrewsbury Town.

Copyright © 1998, 2000 by George Dickerson

El Gallo's Last Faena
George Dickerson

I know this bull;
He is an impudent bull;
I have fought this bull before.

I have seen his dark shoulders
Shadow the eyes of Gypsy girls
Whose lovers caroused to war.

I know this bull;
He is a crazed and careless bull:
He hungered for the soul of Garcia Lorca.

The furnace of this bull's breath
Snorts out ashes; his tongue
Is long as the Guadalquivir.

His great hooves trowel the earth
Until a matador's blood
Flowers the sand.

I know this bull;
This Miura's horns will hook and
Splinter into the satin groin of night.

Not Belmonte or great Joselito,
With their brave veronicas,
Could confuse this bull.

His glare is a surgeon's scalpel
In the harsh hot bullring
Of a reflector's light.

At Granada, at Madrid,
The corrida's tiers are empty;
In sol y sombra, no olés resound.

Even my picador has gone.
At exactly five in the afternoon,
I have thrown my banderillas down.

El Gallo knows you, Toro!
My faena is nearly done.
I'm ready, Toro.  Hey!  Toro!  Come!

Copyright © 1997, 1999, 2000 by George Dickerson

Song for Suzanne  [HEAR THIS POEM READ ON SHOW 7!]
George Dickerson

Sunlight stumbled in your dark brown hair,
Then promised always to trespass there.
At my bedroom door you hesitated--
Even the mice held their breath and waited.

If I could be impossibly clever,
I'd trick this silence to sing forever:
Water would not boil in kitchen kettle,
Nor counter rose drop a ravaged petal,
Nor tattered dreamer falter to the ground,
Nor trembled fingers freeze, nor sirens sound.

After we tangoed our tethered dance,
I could dare to steal a final chance
To still the wagging tongue of time
And make the stars swing round in rhyme.

Copyright © 1997, 1999, 2000 by George Dickerson

The Bones of Heaven
George Dickerson

When children of the desert are starving,
They crave far more than wafers of sand.
Their bellies are crypts where war's gargoyles growl.
No fish swim the fonts of their fly-gummed eyes
When hunger's thistles stitch them shut.
Their husks of voices are shucked-off choirs.
Their fingers are harps for the empty wind.
They will eat anything.  They will eat tomorrow.
For them, the sky's a scoured bowl.
Oh, God, my indifferent God,
Witness how cold, how far the stars
Are flung from their scavenged dreams!
The bones of heaven are long sucked clean.

Copyright © 1999, 2000 by George Dickerson

The Integument of Dust
George Dickerson

I've been cautioned by the cognoscenti
Much of the dust in my unkempt rooms--
The dust that soups my kitchen air,
Stirred by a ladle of sunlight--
The motes that silt the rivers
That grain my oakwood table--
These are flakes of my own dead skin
Hanging around to haunt me--
Sometimes cohabiting
With the sloughed-off flesh of others:
The man who reads the meter,
The plumber who plugged up the leak,
And all the transient lovers
Who've left hints of themselves behind
With these miniature calling cards,
Just to remind me what I've squandered.

This is unsettling news, to learn
I'm dying piecemeal day by day,
That when I scratch or if I shrug,
Particles of me fritter away,
And to discover I'm never alone,
Even in my most private acts--
For which I can hardly atone.

("Ashes.  Ashes.  All fall down!")

If I draw the blinds, I cannot escape
Hannibal's elephants marching on Rome--
Their dunglike feet pluming the air--
Or the ghosts of the Ganges dead
From ghat-burnt pyres that smudge the clouds.

Coterminous with the cosmic dust,
I am commingled with all that's passed--
Nudged in a sneeze of memory--
Composed from our common quick pool of quarks
At the yawn and stretch of awakening time.

When the great storms rose on the Kansas plain,
My grandmother taped all the windows tight--
The cracks of doors and all the chinks
Where the laden wind could insinuate--
Sealed fast the cedar chest under her bed.
Covered with blankets, we hid in the closet
While the banshee wailed through her widowing house
And the buzz of bees filled our dust-bit heads.
Before he died, my grandfather ripped
The tape from the chest, felt deep to the center
For the yellowing linen of her wedding dress,
Unfolded it with arthritic care
To find another's dust sheltering there.
(And the centipede crawled on their mohair couch.)

I have been to distant desert places
Where toppled columns crumble and flake--
Our civilizations blow away in the wind
And dust devils dishevel the mind;
I've knelt and wept for all our sins;
And I've come back home to trace
The calligraphy of your spectral face
Writ in the grit of my windowpane.

Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001 by George Dickerson

Toward Absolute Zero
George Dickerson

Ambushed by news
That blizzarded the heart...

(Hey, bartender!  One more on the rocks,
One more for the frost-heaved road!)

What folklorist foretold a kelpie lurked
Under the mirror of our skating pond--
Cackling with quick-shattering ice?
By a wintry subterfuge,
My boyish wayfarer's feet
Were grabbed, yanked down
In water as frigid as all yesterdays.

Shivering, I clattered out
And crunched toward home,
A foolish kid on awkward stilts
Of pants like frozen boards--
Not finding an enfolding warmth,
But a father's chilly reprimand.

("This old man, he played nine,
He played knick-knack on my spine.")

Down the stone alps to the hospital morgue,
I slid the steep steps of Lord Kelvin's scale,
In the faltering degrees of my dad's demise.

(Hey, Brother, let's piss in the snow--
His carrot nose, his buttons of coal...!
These glaciers were once his eyes.)

There on the gurney he froze me out--
A yellowing-purpled lump,
An effigy of cryogenic space
Fleering a fluorescent grimace,
An object that could not have been--
Not father who rode me piggyback,
Whose flushed and sweating cheek
Had ignited my fresh-kindled face--
Not candle wax... nor flesh... not even stone.

I've breathed air as fierce as fire,
When fingers froze to a rifle butt
And cracking ice was a sniper's shot,
In nights so numb they chilled all fear,
But when I kissed that inanimate brow,
I plummeted toward absolute zero
And discovered a loss that seemed to tear
The skin from my fast-stuck lips--
This was a cold too cold to bear.

If matter's mostly motion and motion is heat,
What stops bites the heart with icicle teeth.

You can't warm a father congealed to the core,
Forever a phantom glazed in the mind...
How love a thing that's no  thing anymore?
Lord, let us forgive!  Lord, let us be kind!

Copyright © 1998, 2000 by George Dickerson

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