When money will have nothing to do with me,
when the only voice I hear is my own
who doesn't think I'm a man at all --
I go to the café and sit among my amigos.
The woman whose left arm has blossomed into skulls and roses is my sister.
The man in the business suit, wrapped like a muzzle around his body,
is talking on the phone with a client. The client is my brother.
The man is my confidant . . .
So begins "Amigos," a standout work from Matthew Dickman's first collection, "All American Poem" (American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press: 85 pp., $14). The voice is casual and intimate, startling us with metaphors -- "blossomed into skulls," "wrapped like a muzzle" -- whose brilliance seems natural and unforced. Then, the tone suddenly shifts:
At any moment California will fall into the Pacific
and this congregation of ours will rise up
and walk across the Barnes & Noble parking lot
toward those breaking waves.
We will be together
in car accidents, train wrecks,
in a hot bath clouding up with our own blood
while the men and women we love read quietly in the other room,
In poetry debut collections by Matthew Dickman and Valzhyna Mort, we experience a ferocious awareness of the past and present.
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