Joan Dickinson

in cathedrals, windows open to the sky and cathedrals’ windows open



And then god asked of her a type of daisy by which students of geometry measure the
measure of all that stretches the fabric of space revealing content. She stands on tiptoe at
the very point of this story, lines from coast to scalp pin the tip of her crown – a lozenge
type of test she uses to look at the only face, her scale tipped to break. She is purely a
matter of population. On her forehand: the serpent of life and death dominates every
equilibrium. She views space in the booth as call-in time.

Geometry measures the manager, the thought that stretches the fabric of space revealing
perfect balance left to right to bottom. All things surface precisely because they are instantly
compensated. She is purely a matter of calculation. Harmony cancels her crown – most
delicate monastery – most faintest breath of thought. At home, serpents dominate every
element. She sits on a throne comparing spears and parents numbering for numbering
law and limitation. One cannot drop a pin without exciting a corresponding reaction. Free of
soul, a service resized, instantly compensated by adjustments, she sends time all things &
cancels out. Her crown since delicate as most think this breath of thought a monastery
dependent on chains of cause & daisies.

the first dream

there’s a kind of man seen alive     to know him is the key to all the chapters     two dolls in a two–
story townhouse       both in black prayer       pride upstairs
a black court downstairs       the house collects chairs

Joan Dickinson


monster and bucket

Along the way, I met a dog and cat out for a walk with their owner, an M.C. Tableaux or Foveaux.
I couldn’t catch or hear or understand the name, but did catch and hear, if not understand, the
names of the animals – “Monster” and “Bucket” – the former the cat, the breed known as
“Forest Cat” from Norway, and the latter, a corgi-poodle mix with cute rabbit ears, a spirited coat,
and ruffled white socks worn snuggly ‘round its four ankles. Ankles. Neither animal was leashed
so free to come and go along the grassy lane and surrounding acreage near which our chance
meeting happened. I stopped immediately, if shyly, on nearing Sir Fastertoe. His was the first
human face encountered in three days and 94 miles and, as it happened, the 94 miles where I’d
wandered during those three isolated days belonged to him, rather his family, his ancestry
landed right about here for lo these many centuries. His introduction hinted at gentry, proffered
references to duchies and family shields and the kind of inbreeding that over those aforementioned
many centuries produces a chinless countenance such as his. And fabulous roses. Fabulous.
It seemed I was trespassing on his old land and such beautiful old land it was, adrift in fogs
escaped from older, eternal mists and the chattering of summer fairies; low slung hedges
surging with hedge hogs and wee chirping birds wound gently round shapely hillocks as far as
far can be. As a courtesy, for I could have easily outrun the pale and papery him and his purple
nose, I paid his crossing fee. Transaction settled, we fell into conversation about the quality of
the day overcast in the creamy, promising way of glints and swirls, a lemony beyond beckoning,
the pale yellow disk evident, if pallid, extending its warmth, though certainly not to the tops of our
heads, for it was long past noon, at least to the tops of our stooped backs, mine from the weight
of a knapsack, his from the years. We spoke, fondly, of the emerging bits of catkins dotting the
reddening slender stems of pussy willows. A reliable harbinger of spring. Reliable. And had Sir
Emory Fascia seen the cranes? Not two hours before, I’d perceived their unmistakable
prehistoric squall, and looking skyward, witnessed the soaring dance of a matched pair returning
to this ancient breeding ground. Sir Emory had not espied the birds as yet, but promised to watch
and husband. Husband. Odd. Odd this ancient, queerly fertile land, home to so many breeding
pairs: Lord Fauntleroy’s mama and papa, his many titled kinsfolk, the cranes and hedge hogs,
most certainly fox and deer, squirrels, goats, sheep and birds. I can’t recall Old Bailey’s response
for just then, a wolf, who must have been stalking us or me or Sir or more likely Monster and
Bucket, now made its intentions known, swooping out from beneath a hedge, securing poor
Monster in its mouth and instantly, professionally snapping her neck with two mighty bloody
shakes. It all happened so quickly as they say. M.C., Bucket, me, Madadh, the wolf, froze
wonderstruck at the miracle of the new death. Monster’s fur appeared intact though bloodied
at the neck. She could have been sleeping yet something about her mouth suggested otherwise,
a kind of vulnerability, the humiliation of the stiffening corpse, which the living may now observe
and examine at will.


Joan Dickinson



One night, I set to a touching task. I was untaught. Olden. Somehow mauled.
I was to carry sheets and videos heaped cold and small, but up and down.
I came upon three old men examining the old crime scene out along Cholla Road.
I could have been that child of old. I didn’t think they could make it face down so
I picked my way across the language happening during the next stage – the bulk of
blame donned – that era, the book between outside and amen. They came at me,
that was all, the ball of motivation rolling fast down the motivation ball hill. And I,
disdaining sympathetic exonerations, went in for the kill. The fuss of killing time
ensuing. The constancy of story keeping.


Joan Dickinson


philosopher of hands

A discarded letter – meaning the hand – the hand as the tool at our center.

The shape of the letter, the color of cloak, the color denying likeness, lamp-hand faking.

The finer the secret, the more its contemplation – in a certain sense,

         the Orphic as I.Q. nursing iridescences.

For has not creation deleted the essence of light in lighting the universe?

And yet from the way she compares forms, only the motive for failing seems to indicate

         the one that is actually hot.

The tool doth send a likeness of faking.

She eats at Persephone’s creek cottage.

Click. Click.


Joan Dickinson


mother of the other wood

One night, listening to faint sounds and garden murmurs outside my tiny home,
I fell into a preoccupying reverie: I stood at the top of my house – yet it was my
grandmother’s house – empty and drafty as any defendant who would not return.
Portraits were everywhere – my uncle and my . . . I don’t know who that is – all saying
how pale were the carpets; how the curtains resemble columns. I knew I would not dream
this again because of the taboo in the room. My grandmother’s everlasting, continuous
flowing built the dream’s architecture – a long tongue of soft faults and gatherings
pinching back, hips, and grandmotherly curves. She whispered her ancient secret between
mountainous teeth: our fingers are us, old by oceans’ standards. A worshiper will not get
the overall person I fear. She is your he. The narrow passage between line travels and
low purses and land mines. Old stone block spiraling alone saying good-bye.

                                          spoon leaves raised on farms in rain time
                                               tree of snow backing out of the sky
                                                                  sleeping hole
                                                         today my son’s today
                                           tree speaking giving way to describing

They must have broken free of their cocoons that very morning. I looked inside.
The altar snails had been replaced by the front of what looked like a butterfly with
outside factors of green and chalk white. The one chair on the porch? Who wants it?
Poor chair.

Is anyone left in the first house?
It’s the width of a human flaw teeth naming head and column.
Named after grandma.
A small end to the ooh ooh and awe.


Joan Dickinson

I don’t know why I decided to keep a diary.
I have two small children and a husband to look after and a farm to help run.
There’s laundry, sewing, and housekeeping and I have to help my sister.
I went to Sunday School and to prayer meeting.
My teeth do not fit as well as they did before.


the farmer’s life

Some farmers down south claim dreams and canvas – painting on doors – and a hideous
piety they call “Katie.” Certain kinds hew handmade leaves – manufacturing leaves –
certain are handy enough with leaves. The stress of playing for the team lets up after Easter.


the painter’s life

It’s not what you name yourself, it’s that painters choose their own names. We can think
it’s there – a place to practice pronouncing the name secretly – but if it’s saying the same
name in darkness and in light, then faked in a paint can, you pronounce it backward.
You say, in your mind, until it hurts, “Confinement is not the same as dark desire.”
Thinking in history equals pictures worth thousands.


the whore’s life

And here’s the total of the thing – the thing names itself like “floors.” Womb + Man
prevailed by emulating such sayings as “If things are last, a letter is better than shadows.”
I talked to her mind. I asked her how to say things like “barrientos” – a new word prone
to announcements like King Kong.


Joan Dickinson

Another dream

She has one deep eye closed above the same.
She’s called Peril Body – cloaked in hummingbirds’ hair – electric and terrible.
No one is worthy. Not the horizon. Not the companions of god.
This is the daughter in a long bikini.
This is third base.
This the holy one wrested from time.
The giant price. Space. This is space.
They say shame hath decked her alias & she hath a rigid,
tin house & secret names not known in jails or sayings.
Go on, comb her hair.
Get seriously lost.



Joan Dickinson


in a hazel wood near the other wood

Two woods where inheritance became a prehistoric survey – the data of angst and tracking –
trading in ancient chalk figures and chokeholds. There, the status overrides skewed so that
a god was called upon to mediate disputes concerning the property thus setting present-day
boundaries. How was the chokehold created? Out of ancient stock? The thing that was said is
sold or arrived so skewed that in order to settle the dispute concerning the property and its
said present-day boundaries, the prehistoric survey of the god of columns created a show
called “The Thing that Was Said.”

Hazel clinics have traditionally been used for defining claims.
Hazel plagues have been used as findings.
Hazel twigs have been used for divining because of their pliancy.
Hazel keys and tweaks have practice at being lost.
God has a shell called “the Thing.”
The cancers can be found in present-day boundaries.


Joan Dickinson


she thought she was found

She was good at losing, falling behind, and feeling. Her mother greeted the night listening
for time, her large mouth, a large-mouth passport ever tilting backwards, reversing outside,
bending windows in case. She stitched pillows for the couch on the couch or else.
It’s not like coming down from the North with its clean linen and line-clean moments.
And it’s not that she hurts vaguely. From below, the sound of her mother’s lost voice drones
on and on intoning wolves and wailing grandmothers. Spatter.


the dishing game

The highest child torments the hole in the tiniest player. She’s China with night airs and
graces making sounds so small yet full of the larger virtues like saints ready for the Arctic.
We make a fine pair, full of fate, our childhood dreams locked in shared gains. Was there
a father? A night-visioned enemy whose re-membered stem nattered proud as war
wounds. Under the door, the sound of a semblance, a gigantic father’s gigantic breathing.
His night time touches our simple set of prayers. Now I name me sleeping. Now I’m on my
way to sleep. Now I lie about dreaming. See the light on the wall? It’s my miniature story
sharpened to a point. I laugh with it every night. It’s that kind of world. The moves are
never ever still either. Anyone can have ambition: the haunted look of an angel slinking
around a parking lot. He’ll again have his moment. I cannot speak to the world.


history means nothing

My mother’s a mindless Homer. She nods. She leaves. It’s quick. Collections of art and
hospital wings soar in the wee moment it takes her to make forms. She says the messiah will
come from a parrot’s nest entering paradise on flightless wings. Her belly swells because the
baby wants out.



Joan Dickinson


a little hiding

Mean numbers splendid as the highest high.

How were you paid?

Do you remember you said yes to something more than this?

Racing across the surface clicking like squirrels we were

           made hairless calculating approximations.

And you announced a use for me.

the third dream
she had been three days walking back to meet the train
it had been necessary to conceal herself behind trees and poles
and though she had seen a train in the distance
she feared passing immigrants


Joan Dickinson


white bees

First prayer

This precedes the earthquake. In the night, our dying thoughts nominate even the
stars’ lost light, for she was taken up into where everything is just right. Loneliness –
between & beyond the wasteland – calling “It’s just what it is now.” That test, with the
same mocking symbol mocking, is over. You’re now the kind that you’ve picked up.

Second prayer

buckling spring
to feel the hatch of honor opened

Third prayer

I take an arrowhead shape or a skinny option based on that shape. My bones become
artifacts mining the activities of which I was not a part in the past. History can sometimes
be in on it – an evolution of mouse parts – where calling flocks nest in balanced pairs, their
shapes the same as the first centuries, their company a V-shield forming long-sent letters.
Their prayer is smart and adaptable. It touches me. The prayer of fading cornstalks.
Eighteen emptying trees. I found him, never harvested, now set upon by crows &
couldn’t clean it up, this . . .
too much. I carried him a sonic offering walking home by my
own night’s sign.



Photography and text © Joan Dickinson 2011


Boxcar Devotion Pretty Pretty Pretty Over There Too Thirteen Moon Dove Road Flower Atmosphere With all that She is She Desires to Give ... Hunter's Moon The Dream of the Owl Sisters
In the Palace of the Night Heron ZephyrZephyr The Architecture of Honey Cooking School of the Air Adjustment The Dream of the Owl Sisters Drove Road Other Work Labyrinth The Charioteer

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