“James Dickey Died Owing Me a Bar Tab” by David Branden Hopes

David Brendan Hopes


James Dickey died owing me a seventy dollar bar tab
I picked up for his vivid drunken self
and hammered protégés somewhere in
I forget where goddamn South Carolina.
No house booze for them. Strictly top shelf.

I have alternately gloried in this and
resented it for however many years,
trying to decide whether a brush with fame—
sweating and profane as it was then—was worth
the tribute of a couple of beers.

When I read “The Heaven of Animals,” though,
the nineteenth time, I think it is all right.
I think I should have bought him something
further to take home, something to
comfort through the poem-haunted night.

At the cycles’ center prowl abroad such men.
They fall. They are torn, they rise. They walk again.

from Rattle #39, Spring 2013
Tribute to Southern Poets

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David Brendan Hopes (North Carolina): “It was during the ice storm, and I was out back smacking ice off the hemlocks with a broom. The trees were bent so low I couldn’t imagine why they weren’t breaking, but they didn’t, and when I hit them and they dropped their ices, they rebounded like whips into the gray sky. My tenant was watching me from his porch. He saw me stop every now and then and take in the glitter when a stray photon broke through the cloud and hit the glazed trees, and then it was gold and diamond. I was singing under my breath. He said, ‘I suppose you’re going to make a damn poem out of all this.’ And I said, ‘Why, yes, I believe I am.’” (web)

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