James Dickey

(2 February 1923 – 19 January 1997 / Atlanta, Georgia)

At Darien Bridge


The sea here used to look
As if many convicts had built it,


Standing deep in their ankle chains,
Ankle-deep in the water, to smite


The land and break it down to salt.
I was in this bog as a child


When they were all working all day
To drive the pilings down.


I thought I saw the still sun
Strike the side of a hammer in flight


And from it a sea bird be born
To take off over the marshes.


As the gray climbs the side of my head
And cuts my brain off from the world,


I walk and wish mainly for birds,
For the one bird no one has looked for


To spring again from a flash
Of metal, perhaps from the scratched


Wedding band on my ring finger.
Recalling the chains of their feet,


I stand and look out over grasses
At the bridge they built, long abandoned,


Breaking down into water at last,
And long, like them, for freedom


Or death, or to believe again
That they worked on the ocean to give it


The unchanging, hopeless look
Out of which all miracles leap.

Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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