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Laressa Dickey


American Sonnet



excerpts from Route to Cloudless Day

American Sonnet

Come sit beside my sad story of six hearted cowboys
who throw dirt into holes they have dug for their brothers
whose bodies walked around topped by bearskin caps
who stacked suitcases, siphoned gas from Exxon
who spoke twice from the mouth with pits for hands
who spit courtesy of Red Man, ask him if he don’t
whose mothers as girls dug holes in the ground to dump failed bakings
who know when there are cows upstream
where Davy Crocket dreams only of his own teeth
which are stained and pocked by the great weed
which grew in hotbeds and cured inside other people’s barns—
who called it tabbaq from those Arabs you can’t stand as early as the 9th century, and lo
for matches one must mince many firs to make Diamonds
for head and tinder shall not impede the spark

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In the evenings, my mother stripped my father’s socks, rubbed his cracked heels & stinking feet. Because she snored, he slept in a room at the far end of the house. Wore earplugs. When they had guests, she blew up an air mattress and slept on the floor beside him. Always the next day he was tired, tired. The one night of my childhood when my mother wasn’t sleeping at home: her father’s heart attack, so she slept in a hospital waiting room. I remember: curtains folds in my back, moon-peeks, darkest night of the year. I once heard my father say the word fuck in reference to my mother. That fucking woman, he said. I was loyal to an old Jerry Lee Lewis record & wore it out one summer. Shake the dumpster, shake it out. Nothing returns, not ankle bones nor ripped strips of memory.

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From above, the land only patterns, lines of which connote movement. This does not equal progress. Instead the language in which they told it, with bodies rather than folded girth. To see the body plainly, in a space commanding attention—this need to understand. Punk, honey. When I play cards, I put my hands behind my head between tricks like my father did when he played Rook. Moving becomes what we repeat but stands for someone else. People whose gestures live inside us. To say some impulse won’t be remembered, to lose one’s roads and streets, this short welcoming of the world to its people, as in I cannot be a worker, I cannot be a father. My plan is hollowing and atavistic friendships, a tolerance for nothing to do with my own hands.


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excerpts from Route to Cloudless Sky


If the mind inside the body blackens does the body blacken
In sleep, his memory flaps like a threatened bird
When each night before bed she eats banana with warmed milk
He can’t explain why he’s incredulous
For a time he didn’t know he had a memory because of the size of other memories
How did I know fingers crossed behind my back were good luck or lying
She didn’t remember she didn’t remember, so continuously fed the horse bananas
The young get angry when the old can’t recall names of streets
After all, daughters remember less
As if I’ve swallowed the sun, she says, worst I’ve ever felt
I would like to sustain this action as if to say the body teaches the mind about itch
Somewhere, if someone sleeps



A horse’s eyes full of flies. Not up in the air anymore. A child of the child, she is not barren. Take it in the teeth, a fatty place I squeezed my own eyes shut when I laughed at nine. My burning heart, dear. Suddenly I couldn’t be like me. If this is what it’s like to be fertile and produce a child as with-child friends would. This doll you cannot play with. Round up the whole gang, so much empty, all sentence. And the day faking sunset. He is black but his lips are black.



O beloved. This mayhem costuming the skeletal of my once.

I’m simply what I don’t know interrupting

so badly to cry,

A fine enough delineation with big eyes

a knocking door;
man carrying his pumping heart


Remember my name as it comes to you through window glass

we knew angels, breaking
its order

                                                If we touch what we think,              kaputt!
empty pillars, he felt joy in his limbs


If                                 I
had said

                                    and you nodded


my how the architecture




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Laressa Dickey is a poet, dancer, and somatic worker. Born in Tennessee, Dickey received her MFA in 2005 from the University of Minnesota. She is the author of four chapbooks from MIEL press ( including Companions, Corps of Discovery (2012) and A Piece of Information About His Invisibility (2012). Her work appears in CURA, Precipitate, Cerise Press, The Southern Women’s Review, Referential Magazine, Isotope, and other journals.

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