The Aug. 26 cover story "Monsters of Poetry" puts the spotlight on the poet's art to preview the fourth annual Decatur Book Festival, to be held Sep. 4-6. This blog will count down the days to the festival by posting a poem each day by a different writer, to let the verse speak for itself. For Sep. 3, The Dickens by Travis Wayne Denton.
Who is this race of superhumans
Ive always heard about?
Those who spend their lives perfecting
everything from the high-jump
to solving quadratic equations and righting angles
to fucking all nighthaving mastered missionary
positions across continents.
They must sit up til dawn in their tidy towers,
reading by candlelight as their beards grow long
and sweep the floor.
All my life Ive wondered
who are these fanatics
whose reputation is the measure of my worth?
Sitting down to dinner or gossiping on the phone,
my mother spouted off similes
like the Dickens. At age five,
I could write like the Dickens,
run like the goddamned Dickens.
My brother could eat like the Dickensas if eating
were one of the classic arts to be cherished
like Italian frescos or Tuscan vines.
Uncle Evans cursed like the Dickens.
According to my father, Waylon Jennings
could sing like the Dickens.
I wanted to be the Dickens.
About suffering, too, they were never wrong
these old masters, no doubt they knew a perfect
suffering akin only to Christs,
as Im sure it hurt like the Dickens
when the soldiers spiked him up.
So when my grandmothers cancer bloomed inside her
like a field of daisies, she said she hurt
not like hell, not like the devil,
but it was only the Dickens who knew her pain,
so I cursed the Dickens.
Put them away with last years vacation snapshots:
me in Hells Kitchen, smiling
like the Dickens, sunset over the gulf,
the clouds bruised, red as a rusty fender,
and sunset, purple as the Dickens.
Outside tonight mosquitoes buzz like alarm clocks, sirens.
And on the radio is Miles Davis blowing like the Dickens,
lulling me to the island of my bed
where I will sleep
like the Dickens.
Travis Wayne Denton lives in Atlanta with his daughter Helena Skylark. He is the Associate Director of Poetry @ TECH as well as McEver Chair in Poetry at Georgia Tech. He is also co-founding editor of the literary arts publication, Terminus Magazine. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies.
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