Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Grief" by Matthew Dickman

I can't remember exactly, but I am pretty sure it was Karyna McGlynn via her review of Dickman's book on Goodreads.com, who turned me on to Matthew Dickman's poetry. I'd heard his name here and there but decided to Google him and see if I could find some of his stuff to read online. Sure enough, I found two poems on TheStory.org, which is the Web site of the NPR show hosted by Dick Gordon. Matthew was the subject of a February 29, 2008 episode of The Story titled "The Manny" about his time working as a nanny for the Nakayama family (you can listen to the episode and even download it on the Web site). He looked after the Nakayama's young son, Gilbert, and also helped look after Isamu, Gilbert's father, who was dying of brain cancer. It is an incredible, touching story. And now I want Matthew to be my nanny, because this is the kind of man I want my son to be around.

Not only that, but I also now love the poems I've read so far and can't wait to get his book All American Poem which won The American Poetry Review First Book Prize in Poetry last year.

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla

you must count yourself lucky.

You must offer her what's left

of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish

you must put aside

and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,

her eyes moving from the clock

to the television and back again.

I am not afraid. She has been here before

and now I can recognize her gait

as she approaches the house.

Some nights, when I know she's coming,

I unlock the door, lie down on my back,

and count her steps

from the street to the porch.

Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,

tells me to write down

everyone I have ever known

and we separate them between the living and the dead

so she can pick each name at random.

I play her favorite Willie Nelson album

because she misses Texas

but I don't ask why.

She hums a little,

the way my brother does when he gardens.

We sit for an hour

while she tells me how unreasonable I've been,

taking down the pictures of my family,

not writing, refusing to shower,

staring too hard at girls younger than my sister.

Eventually she puts one of her heavy

purple arms around me, leans

her head against mine,

and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.

So I tell her,

things are feeling romantic.

She pulls another name, this time

from the dead

and turns to me in that way that parents do

so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.

Romantic? She says,

reading the name out loud, slowly

so I am aware of each syllable,

each consonant resembling a swollen arm, the collapsed ear,

a mouth full of teeth, each vowel

wrapping around the bones like new muscle,

the sound of that person's body

and how reckless it is,

how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.

(Matthew Dickman)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This poem is so perfectly brilliant that it astonishes me anew every time I read it. I hate to gush like a smitten school girl, but it describes a set of feelings so well in such an unusual but succint way. "Fire" and "Slow Dance" are also amazing.