Happy birthday, Big Other contributor Nik De Dominic! Celebrate by reading these superb poems we published in 2019.
Today they found a baby dinosaur tail,
amber-preserved, a forever mute memory.
Myanmar’s a place I don’t know,
a place I know by another name,
but I don’t know much about that
because I didn’t see the movie.
Today, I drove to my father’s hospital bed
And I watched him dying.
Twenty-five years ago he was also dying but didn’t.
Die. Today, he isn’t good at dying, again,
hooked up to IVs, hollering when they move
his pillow, his body, a body invaded, colonized.
Hurry, he says over and over again,
I don’t know who he’s telling, asking.
Pleading to god. Hurry up, take me, I’m ready.
Let’s go, he wants to say, waiting
on a teenager, me, to gel his hair, put on his fucking shoes.
I tell my brother Dad’s not dying again.
Do I remember the time Dad tried suicide?
The pills, the missed Friday pickup,
the weekend all he did was sleep and not die?
I thought you needed to know.
Mission of Burma sings
about heroes and mothers and
patience and fathers and revolvers
and spirits and boundaries.
The morning is sun and there’s something
still, slow and ambered.
The morning is being late to school,
shotgun in his sun-warmed car.
It’s turbine whining through windows.
It’s a cigar smoldering in a tray, this world ours.
It’s this waiting room, these clichés,
poems about hospitals and urine and suicide
and death, and there’s always something
to find again as it always was,
a feather for us forever intact.
This Thing Is Like That Other Thing
What’s missing is crane flies—big spindly things in the bathtub—and plastic shower curtains, and dead corners of cobwebbed rooms. Startled, they’d come toward you, float and tickle down your leg. They were bigger than my hands, my head, my body. I knew them as mosquitoes that didn’t bite. Wolf mosquito, golly whopper, gallinipper, mosquito hawk, dragon fly, or flying daddy long legs. Skeeter-eaters some people call them, but others say they really they don’t. Eat mosquitos. My father died in January. The crane flies returned this spring. A strange plague, they’re everywhere—in the bed, the bathroom, frozen on walls, floating in an inch of dirty dish water on top of a plate in the sink, their bodies and legs tangled threads. They’re snakes and eucalyptus trees and bougainvillea petals of pink tissue paper. They’re wet dirt, heat, and summer. They’re my father and his dumb hands working the land. I tell this to my wife, and she holds my face in her dumb hands and looks at me and says we’ve had a lot of rain this year.
Two planes went down this week.
Catastrophic anomaly, they said.
My father used to listen
to vocabulary tapes, prone
to telling the same stories over and over.
Anomaly was one of the first big words
he taught me. Imagine a hot day, he’d say,
in the south and a fine gentle lady saying,
I always drink iced tea but today
I will have a mint julep. Anomaly.
Do pilots think about iced tea
when their gauges flicker green?
The other day, I woke up in my body,
a stranger, and twisted
my ankle stepping off the curb.
Words fell from my mouth.
Take out the trash and
I’ll wash the dishes. I took off
my cap, got clipped by the ceiling fan.
Do planes have days like this?
Metal expanding and constricting,
combustion heat and altitude cold
a collapse, a jagged catastrophe.
A southern plane slopes, and
I would land here but for today.
Today, I will land in flames.
A Poem by a Contemporary Famous Poet
My lover and I are some place. Western.
A castle in Spain. The Scottish foothills.
We witness the distance between
us, a mare in the mist
foaling, a stillbirth, the foal between
us breathless, the foal still
in its sac, this night, this mist
our sac, these Scottish Spanish foothills,
the foal breathing, stumbling up, slim limbs aquiver,
and it will feel still, mare, foal, sac, night, mist
because this poem is still, mare, foal, sac, night, mist
and it will be beautiful, so god-damned beautiful.
Music for Lighthouse Keepers
You keep asking about here again.
An echo. Echo. A dance clipped
from speech. Or spruce
limb behind the house.
Let’s say it’s not. Echo or dance
or speech, or spruce. Sycamore then.
Ash or Aspen. Fir or Elm.
Or Hophornbeam. Fucking birch.
The road is just a road, gravel or paved.
Every thing here built from speech.
This thing—these things aren’t real.
Leaves, gap-toothed and veiny,
from whatever that tree’s called
behind this poem, this singing thing,
these singular, dazzling things. A song.
Nik De Dominic is the author of Goodbye Wolf and Your Daily Horoscope. His work has also appeared in Guernica, DIAGRAM, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. He is the poetry editor of New Orleans Review and a founding editor of The Offending Adam. De Dominic teaches in the Writing Program at the University of Southern California, where he is also the Co-Director of Public Humanities at the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, coordinating USC's prison education initiatives.