The dead don’t bivouac by the riverside.
I reckon love ain’t two fifths consolation,
but a pint of bastard light through the gut.
I reckon our dead congregate, reeling
past the pointy steeple of paradise.
Be my Oh Susanna, don’t you cry for—,
and I’ll be your banjo’s clawhammer strum.
We’ll mainline sawdust and speak, in shotgun,
the language of might coulds juked in the dark.
I love you like gingham loves knobby knees.
Love me like a holster loves a warm gun.
Let angels lead us away while the catfish
are still in bloom and while we still reckon
some drunk mermaid’s hit us with her flipper.
This is not your Grandma’s sonnet. At least not mine. This poem shakes, rattles, and rolls it’s way through fourteen lines of surprise and humor and serious joy. A poem about the Dead, Love, and Language. What else is there to write about? No fingerprints on this poem but I can’t help imagining a smile stretching across the faces of Geoff Chaucer, Bob Frost, David Lee, and even Mr. Frank O’Hara, as that final flipper in the poem hits us where it hurts.
—Michael Dickman, 2014 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize Judge