James Dickey

James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923 – January 19, 1997) was an American poet and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1966. He also received the Order of the South award.

 


AT DARIEN BRIDGE
James Dickey

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.