James Dickey

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

The Bee


One dot
Grainily shifting we at roadside and
The smallest wings coming along the rail fence out
Of the woods one dot of all that green. It now
Becomes flesh-crawling then the quite still
Of stinging. I must live faster for my terrified
Small son it is on him. Has come. Clings.

Old wingback, come
To life. If your knee action is high
Enough, the fat may fall in time God damn
You, Dickey, dig this is your last time to cut
And run but you must give it everything you have
Left, for screaming near your screaming child is the sheer
Murder of California traffic: some bee hangs driving

Your child
Blindly onto the highway. Get there however
Is still possible. Long live what I badly did
At Clemson and all of my clumsiest drives
For the ball all of my trying to turn
The corner downfield and my spindling explosions
Through the five-hole over tackle. O backfield

Coach Shag Norton,
Tell me as you never yet have told me
To get the lead out scream whatever will get
The slow-motion of middle age off me I cannot
Make it this way I will have to leave
My feet they are gone I have him where
He lives and down we go singing with screams into

The dirt,
Son-screams of fathers screams of dead coaches turning
To approval and from between us the bee rises screaming
With flight grainily shifting riding the rail fence
Back into the woods traffic blasting past us
Unchanged, nothing heard through the air-
conditioning glass we lying at roadside full

Of the forearm prints
Of roadrocks strawberries on our elbows as from
Scrimmage with the varsity now we can get
Up stand turn away from the highway look straight
Into trees. See, there is nothing coming out no
Smallest wing no shift of a flight-grain nothing
Nothing. Let us go in, son, and listen

For some tobacco-
mumbling voice in the branches to say "That's
a little better," to our lives still hanging
By a hair. There is nothing to stop us we can go
Deep deeper into elms, and listen to traffic die
Roaring, like a football crowd from which we have
Vanished. Dead coaches live in the air, son live

In the ear
Like fathers, and urge and urge. They want you better
Than you are. When needed, they rise and curse you they scream
When something must be saved. Here, under this tree,
We can sit down. You can sleep, and I can try
To give back what I have earned by keeping us
Alive, and safe from bees: the smile of some kind

Of savior-
Of touchdowns, of fumbles, battles,
Lives. Let me sit here with you, son
As on the bench, while the first string takes back
Over, far away and say with my silentest tongue, with the man-
creating bruises of my arms with a live leaf a quick
Dead hand on my shoulder, "Coach Norton, I am your boy."

Submitted: Saturday, March 15, 2014
Edited: Saturday, March 15, 2014

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