Caleb is standing in his front yard
hitting a stickagainst a tree. In three months he will
be in the fifth grade.He’s thinking
about He-Man and She-Ra,about Castle Grayskull.
Inside the househis dad is screaming at his mom.
Now Caleb’s throwing the stickin the air
and imagining it’s a sword on firethat only he can catch.
When his dad leavesCaleb will go into the house
and find his mom in the weird darkof his parents’ bedroom
where he will kiss her busted lip, crawlonto the bed and hold her,
his arms just beneathher ribs. Eventually
he will go backout into the yard,
pick up the once flaming sword, and wait.
Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Dickman
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Matthew Dickman is the author of Mayakovsky’s Revolver and All-American Poem, winner of the May Sarton award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the coauthor with Michael Dickman of 50 American Plays and Brother. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his two sons and partner. (Author photo by Josh Tillinghast)
Luminous and hypnotic, this dynamic collection explores the dark edges of childhood, violence, race, class, and masculinity….
“Known for poems of universality of feeling, expressive lyricism of reflection, and heartrending allure” (Major Jackson), award-winning poet Matthew Dickman returns with a collection that engages the traces of his own living past, suffusing these poems with ghosts of longing, shame, and vulnerability. In the southeast Portland neighborhood of Dickman’s youth, parents are out of control and children are in chaos. With grief, anger, and, ultimately, understanding, Dickman confronts a childhood of ambient violence, well-intentioned but warped family relations, confining definitions of identity, and the deprivation of this particular Portland neighborhood in the 1980s.
“There is an unabashed rapture to these poems about ordinary American life in the analog age. How astounding, and how perfectly troubling, to be led through this fearsome, familiar realm of choked silences and violent collisions by an intelligence as deft and buoyant as Matthew Dickman’s.”
—Tracy K. Smith
“With Wonderland, Matthew Dickman captures the vicissitudes of childhood: the mess and wildness of it all, how we are both held and discarded, the way darkness subsumes the glow and vice versa. Dickman’s poems are deft and sparkling and never cease to tear into you with their profound rawness and beauty.”