“A Man and a Flag Are One” by Paul Dickey

Paul Dickey


Look. On the roof of the Mutual
Metropolitan Life Company of EveryState,
a man is looking for a window to wash.
Perhaps he just needs a job.
Or is it a flag?
Or is it a man wrapped in a flag?
Or a flag dressed like a man?

And now, the man is waving in the wind.
Or is the flag waving a gun?
Perhaps at that height, all of us
on the street appear to be children.
How nice. He is waving good-bye to us.

Oh no. A noise sounds like my dad’s
old car backfiring. Who am I kidding?
We are children. Where are our mothers?
My friends are playing along,
falling down on the already hot cement.
I am telling them to get up.

The man is standing at half-mast.
The flag is crying.
All that they ever wanted in life
is different than what they are.
Now watch him walk down the stairs.
He needs to be at work
on the seventh floor by 9:00 A.M.
The police will find him there.

The flag is following him.
A good spouse, she will not
talk to reporters.
Someone in the crowd figures
this is a couple who never
had children of their own.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006


Paul Dickey: “Writing poetry has turned out to be nothing like what it seemed. I write poetry because I want to come up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth in my life—World Series Game 7, bases loaded, two out, lying about why I skipped work to go to the ballpark, the stadium empty of fans and thus the vendors trying to sell popcorn to me, and thousands of MFA graduates grabbing the bat. But isn’t this everybody?”

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