Paul Dickey

The Season of Almost

Almost by the hour
the red oaks
change clothes from green
to gold to gone.

                Busted acorns spread
an oak floor
                               in tongue and groove,
                snap and creak like a bed.

A hunter scurries, collects
his last pleasures
and needs.
                Autumn achieves

its waiting for winter.
Anything and everything
seem almost
worth dying for.

A Small Procession

“How young I seem; I am exceptional;
I think of all I have.
But really no one is exceptional…”

                               Randall Jarrell, Next Day

A car has gathered up
its friends and family
and drives them in a line
down Central Street.
Either it is raining,
or windshields are crying.
Today we broadcast
from a small town
in America.
Special cars up front
make sure everyone
remembers to keep
their own lights on
and glowing.
But really, there are
no special cars.
The cars in the head
of the line are only
the first of a back-end
flow of traffic.
Except for one big one.
A tall man who is
also short is driving.
This man did not know
the man being honored,
but cares the most
that everything works out
today for everyone.
You would think
these cars could go faster.
Surely, they have lives
to get back to.

Woods Interior
After the charcoal on paper, Woods Interior (1905) by Robert
Henri in the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE.
A boy’s dreams strut big though small the place.
His pride grows tall like oaks from acorns stand.
Our son was young and yet professed to know
the sun will spill its light above the leaves
as rays of paint, so he can flaunt his chance.
He walked the trail with us, his pace the same

from tree to tree. Each bark appeared the same.
He whined, complained he’d walked all day in place.
Nothing awaits a boy as his chance
must wait for him. At a distance, it can stand
as true as mothers do, but once it leaves,
he’d know (though nothing tells him how he knows)

his time had gone. She taught him how to know
such things. He’ll want her gone, not be the same.
“It’s up to me, he’ll say, to turn the leaves
of every book, to read and mark my place.”
A son’s mistakes his parents must withstand.
One day he’ll turn from us. We’ll learn by chance.

Our careless talk that day gave him this chance
to run a path of course we could not know.
The marsh did not afford us ground to stand.
Through not a thought out plan, yet all the same,
the steps he chose soon led him toward a place
and random nature’s orders gave him leave

to march like Majors wearing shoulder leaves –
‘til light began to fade. He forced the chance,
desperate to escape to anyplace.
Night comes quick is what he’d have to know,
and nothing seems the same that is the same.
Confused at first, but soon he might understand

that one must draw a line on which to stand.
When lost in evening sky, when all light leaves,
no one can see what shadows are the same.
Above the trees, the sun withdrew all chance.
He saw what I could not afford to know –
that aged trees once giants stoop in place

for younger trees to stand. We took a chance
to leave him be, to learn what he must know
in time – or lack of same – to stand in place.

This is Paul Dickey’s third appearance in Otoliths recently. Since his last appearance, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bellevue Literary Review, The Laurel Review, Concho River Review, Foundling Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Ascent, and Valparaiso Review. His second full-length volume of poetry Wires Over the Homeplace will appear from Pinyon Publishing later this year. Dickey teaches philosophy in Omaha, Nebraska. More information about the author appears on his faculty website.
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