Friday, October 12, 2012

A Poet and his Dog

"I came to poetry with no particular qualifications. I had begun to suspect, however, that there is a poet—or a kind of poet—buried in every human being like Ariel in his tree, and that the people whom we are pleased to call poets are only those who have felt the need and contrived the means to release this spirit from its prison."
                                 --James Dickey in Howard Nemerov's Poets on Poetry

The Poetry Friday Roundoup is at Teaching Young Writers

A Dog Sleeping on My Feet
By James Dickey

'Being his resting place,
I do not even tense
The muscles of a leg
Or I would seem to be changing.
Instead I turn the page
Of the notebook, carefully not

Remembering what I have written,
For now, with my feet beneath him
Dying like embers,
The poem is beginning to move
Up through my pine-prickling legs
Out of the night wood,

Taking hold of the pen by my fingers.
Before me the fox floats lightly,
On fire with his holy scent.
All, all are running.
Marvelous is the pursuit,
Like a dazzle of nails through the ankles,

Like a twisting shout through the trees
Sent after the flying fox
Through the holes of logs, over streams
Stock-still with the pressure of moonlight.
My killed legs,
My legs of a dead thing, follow,

Quick as pins, through the forest,
And all rushes on into dark
And ends on the brightness of paper.
When my hand, which speaks in a daze
The hypnotized language of beasts,
Shall falter, and fail

Back into the human tongue,
And the dog gets up and goes out

To wander the dawning yard,
I shall crawl to my human bed
And lie there smiling at sunrise,
With the scent of the fox

Burning in my brain like an incense,
Floating out of the night wood,
Coming home to my wife and my sons
From the dream of an animal,
Assembling the self I must wake to,
Sleeping to grow back my legs.


  1. That 'dazzle of nails through the ankles" with dazzle is an intriguing word, Dori. I wonder where his idea started. Thanks!

  2. This poem is so intriguing and I want to save it to read a few more times. I loved "Taking hold of the pen by my fingers. Before me the fox floats lightly,On fire with his holy scent." Wow, so good. Thank you so much for sharing this today.

  3. Thanks for reading Linda and Betsy. Dickey is an intriguing poet. Much to think on.