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#1 Mar 06, 2019 6:09 pm

Real Distwalker

Buckdancer’s Choice BY JAMES L. DICKEY

So I would hear out those lungs,   
The air split into nine levels,
Some gift of tongues of the whistler

In the invalid’s bed: my mother,   
Warbling all day to herself
The thousand variations of one song;

It is called Buckdancer’s Choice.   
For years, they have all been dying   
Out, the classic buck-and-wing men

Of traveling minstrel shows;   
With them also an old woman   
Was dying of breathless angina,

Yet still found breath enough   
To whistle up in my head   
A sight like a one-man band,

Freed black, with cymbals at heel,   
An ex-slave who thrivingly danced   
To the ring of his own clashing light

Through the thousand variations of one song   
All day to my mother’s prone music,   
The invalid’s warbler’s note,

While I crept close to the wall   
Sock-footed, to hear the sounds alter,   
Her tongue like a mockingbird’s break

Through stratum after stratum of a tone   
Proclaiming what choices there are   
For the last dancers of their kind,

For ill women and for all slaves
Of death, and children enchanted at walls   
With a brass-beating glow underfoot,

Not dancing but nearly risen   
Through barnlike, theatrelike houses   
On the wings of the buck and wing.


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