Thursday, September 11, 2008

Poem of the Week 8/11/2008: We Did Not Make Ourselves

We Did Not Make Ourselves

We did not make ourselves is one thing
I keep singing into my hands
while falling

for just a second

before I have to get up and turn on all the lights in the house, one after the
other, like opening an Advent calendar

My brain opening
the chemical miracles in my brain
switching on

I can hear

dogs barking
some trees
last stars

You think you’ll be missed
it won’t last long
I promise

I’m not dead but I am
standing very still
in the back yard
staring up at the maple
thirty years ago
a tiny kid waiting on the ground
alone in heaven
in the world
in white sneakers

I’m having a good time humming along to everything I can still remember
back there

How we’re born

Made to look up at everything we didn’t make

We didn’t
make grass, mosquitoes
or breast cancer

We didn’t make yellow jackets

or sunlight


I didn’t make my brain
but I’m helping
to finish it

Carefully stacking up everything I made next to everything I ruined in broad
daylight in bright

This morning I killed a fly
and didn’t lie down
next to the body
like we’re supposed to

We’re supposed to

Soon I’m going to wake up


There is only this world and this world

What a relief

over and over

Michael Dickman 2008

Gone in this age are the great poetic reveries of Rilke and Coleridge, but it seems that there are still moments of reflection and expansion in poetry, and what a gem this poem is! Dickman must be somewhere in the imagist school of poetry, though he easily folds it into a narrative framework. This poem is formed from images of a moment and then a memory, but they suggest the scope of everything created, the failures and successes, all of the things of this world that somehow hover without us. Rilke's Things which "strangely concern us," despite their apparent existence.

One of the final lines, "there is only this world and this world" reminds me of a line from the Upanisads: "there is no second reality here." Something is spoken but not said.

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