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Best Famous James Dickey Poems

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by James Dickey |

The Lifeguard

 In a stable of boats I lie still,
From all sleeping children hidden.
The leap of a fish from its shadow Makes the whole lake instantly tremble.
With my foot on the water, I feel The moon outside Take on the utmost of its power.
I rise and go our through the boats.
I set my broad sole upon silver, On the skin of the sky, on the moonlight, Stepping outward from earth onto water In quest of the miracle This village of children believed That I could perform as I dived For one who had sunk from my sight.
I saw his cropped haircut go under.
I leapt, and my steep body flashed Once, in the sun.
Dark drew all the light from my eyes.
Like a man who explores his death By the pull of his slow-moving shoulders, I hung head down in the cold, Wide-eyed, contained, and alone Among the weeds, And my fingertips turned into stone From clutching immovable blackness.
Time after time I leapt upward Exploding in breath, and fell back From the change in the children's faces At my defeat.
Beneath them I swam to the boathouse With only my life in my arms To wait for the lake to shine back At the risen moon with such power That my steps on the light of the ripples Might be sustained.
Beneath me is nothing but brightness Like the ghost of a snowfield in summer.
As I move toward the center of the lake, Which is also the center of the moon, I am thinking of how I may be The savior of one Who has already died in my care.
The dark trees fade from around me.
The moon's dust hovers together.
I call softly out, and the child's Voice answers through blinding water.
Patiently, slowly, He rises, dilating to break The surface of stone with his forehead.
He is one I do not remember Having ever seen in his life.
The ground I stand on is trembling Upon his smile.
I wash the black mud from my hands.
On a light given off by the grave I kneel in the quick of the moon At the heart of a distant forest And hold in my arms a child Of water, water, water.


by James Dickey |

The Sharks Parlor

 Memory: I can take my head and strike it on a wall on Cumberland Island 
Where the night tide came crawling under the stairs came up the first 
Two or three steps and the cottage stood on poles all night 
With the sea sprawled under it as we dreamed of the great fin circling 
Under the bedroom floor.
In daylight there was my first brassy taste of beer And Payton Ford and I came back from the Glynn County slaughterhouse With a bucket of entrails and blood.
We tied one end of a hawser To a spindling porch-pillar and rowed straight out of the house Three hundred yards into the vast front yard of windless blue water The rope out slithering its coil the two-gallon jug stoppered and sealed With wax and a ten-foot chain leader a drop-forged shark-hook nestling.
We cast our blood on the waters the land blood easily passing For sea blood and we sat in it for a moment with the stain spreading Out from the boat sat in a new radiance in the pond of blood in the sea Waiting for fins waiting to spill our guts also in the glowing water.
We dumped the bucket, and baited the hook with a run-over collie pup.
The jug Bobbed, trying to shake off the sun as a dog would shake off the sea.
We rowed to the house feeling the same water lift the boat a new way, All the time seeing where we lived rise and dip with the oars.
We tied up and sat down in rocking chairs, one eye on the other responding To the blue-eye wink of the jug.
Payton got us a beer and we sat All morning sat there with blood on our minds the red mark out In the harbor slowly failing us then the house groaned the rope Sprang out of the water splinters flew we leapt from our chairs And grabbed the rope hauled did nothing the house coming subtly Apart all around us underfoot boards beginning to sparkle like sand Pulling out the tarred poles we slept propped-up on leaning to sea As in land-wind crabs scuttling from under the floor as we took runs about Two more porch-pillars and looked out and saw something a fish-flash An almighty fin in trouble a moiling of secret forces a false start Of water a round wave growing in the whole of Cumberland Sound the one ripple.
Payton took off without a word I could not hold him either But clung to the rope anyway it was the whole house bending Its nails that held whatever it was coming in a little and like a fool I took up the slack on my wrist.
The rope drew gently jerked I lifted Clean off the porch and hit the water the same water it was in I felt in blue blazing terror at the bottom of the stairs and scrambled Back up looking desperately into the human house as deeply as I could Stopping my gaze before it went out the wire screen of the back door Stopped it on the thistled rattan the rugs I lay on and read On my mother's sewing basket with next winter's socks spilling from it The flimsy vacation furniture a bucktoothed picture of myself.
Payton came back with three men from a filling station and glanced at me Dripping water inexplicable then we all grabbed hold like a tug-of-war.
We were gaining a little from us a cry went up from everywhere People came running.
Behind us the house filled with men and boys.
On the third step from the sea I took my place looking down the rope Going into the ocean, humming and shaking off drops.
A houseful Of people put their backs into it going up the steps from me Into the living room through the kitchen down the back stairs Up and over a hill of sand across a dust road and onto a raised field Of dunes we were gaining the rope in my hands began to be wet With deeper water all other haulers retreated through the house But Payton and I on the stairs drawing hand over hand on our blood Drawing into existence by the nose a huge body becoming A hammerhead rolling in beery shallows and I began to let up But the rope strained behind me the town had gone Pulling-mad in our house far away in a field of sand they struggled They had turned their backs on the sea bent double some on their knees The rope over their shoulders like a bag of gold they strove for the ideal Esso station across the scorched meadow with the distant fish coming up The front stairs the sagging boards still coming in up taking Another step toward the empty house where the rope stood straining By itself through the rooms in the middle of the air.
"Pass the word," Payton said, and I screamed it "Let up, good God, let up!" to no one there.
The shark flopped on the porch, grating with salt-sand driving back in The nails he had pulled out coughing chunks of his formless blood.
The screen door banged and tore off he scrambled on his tail slid Curved did a thing from another world and was out of his element and in Our vacation paradise cutting all four legs from under the dinner table With one deep-water move he unwove the rugs in a moment throwing pints Of blood over everything we owned knocked the buckteeth out of my picture His odd head full of crashed jelly-glass splinters and radio tubes thrashing Among the pages of fan magazines all the movie stars drenched in sea-blood Each time we thought he was dead he struggled back and smashed One more thing in all coming back to die three or four more times after death.
At last we got him out logrolling him greasing his sandpaper skin With lard to slide him pulling on his chained lips as the tide came, Tumbled him down the steps as the first night wave went under the floor.
He drifted off head back belly white as the moon.
What could I do but buy That house for the one black mark still there against death a forehead- toucher in the room he circles beneath and has been invited to wreck? Blood hard as iron on the wall black with time still bloodlike Can be touched whenever the brow is drunk enough.
All changes.
Memory: Something like three-dimensional dancing in the limbs with age Feeling more in two worlds than one in all worlds the growing encounters.
Copyright © James Dickey 1965 Online Source - http://www.
oceanstar.
com/shark/dickey.
htm


by James Dickey |

FOR THE LAST WOLVERINE

 They will soon be down

To one, but he still will be
For a little while still will be stopping

The flakes in the air with a look,
Surrounding himself with the silence
Of whitening snarls.
Let him eat The last red meal of the condemned To extinction, tearing the guts From an elk.
Yet that is not enough For me.
I would have him eat The heart, and, from it, have an idea Stream into his gnawing head That he no longer has a thing To lose, and so can walk Out into the open, in the full Pale of the sub-Arctic sun Where a single spruce tree is dying Higher and higher.
Let him climb it With all his meanness and strength.
Lord, we have come to the end Of this kind of vision of heaven, As the sky breaks open Its fans around him and shimmers And into its northern gates he rises Snarling complete in the joy of a weasel With an elk's horned heart in his stomach Looking straight into the eternal Blue, where he hauls his kind.
I would have it all My way: at the top of that tree I place The New World's last eagle Hunched in mangy feathers giving Up on the theory of flight.
Dear God of the wildness of poetry, let them mate To the death in the rotten branches, Let the tree sway and burst into flame And mingle them, crackling with feathers, In crownfire.
Let something come Of it something gigantic legendary Rise beyond reason over hills Of ice SCREAMING that it cannot die, That it has come back, this time On wings, and will spare no earthly thing: That it will hover, made purely of northern Lights, at dusk and fall On men building roads: will perch On the moose's horn like a falcon Riding into battle into holy war against Screaming railroad crews: will pull Whole traplines like fibers from the snow In the long-jawed night of fur trappers.
But, small, filthy, unwinged, You will soon be crouching Alone, with maybe some dim racial notion Of being the last, but none of how much Your unnoticed going will mean: How much the timid poem needs The mindless explosion of your rage, The glutton's internal fire the elk's Heart in the belly, sprouting wings, The pact of the "blind swallowing Thing," with himself, to eat The world, and not to be driven off it Until it is gone, even if it takes Forever.
I take you as you are And make of you what I will, Skunk-bear, carcajou, bloodthirsty Non-survivor.
Lord, let me die but not die Out.
Copyright © 1966 by James Dickey Online Source - http://www.
theatlantic.
com/unbound/poetry/dickey/wolverine.
htm