Photo by Larry Cloud

By Nona Blyth Cloud

The word “Poetry” covers a lot of ground, everything from the brief illumination of a Japanese Haiku to a great Norse Saga passed down through the generations by repetition of the words in chant or song.

Back when I was still working for a living, if the day had gone reasonably well, and I left the office more or less on time, I’d be about halfway home when Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac would begin on NPR. Stuck in traffic, with the booming rap from a neighboring car making me turn up my radio and strain my ears to hear, Keillor’s clear deliberate voice could still cocoon me in the words. His readings were my introduction to some wonderful poems, and a rediscovery of many old favorites.


So when I thought about what I was going to write for my inaugural entry here, I remembered The Writer’s Almanac, and Garrison Keillor’s companion book Good Poems. In the book’s Introduction, Keillor says: “Stickiness, memorability, is one sign of a good poem. You hear it and a day later some of it is still there in the brainpan.”

If the name James Dickey rings a bell, it’s probably for his novel Deliverance, and you’re hearing “Dueling Banjos” in your head. However, James Dickey won the National Book Award in 1966 for his poetry. He was the 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and wrote notable criticism of modern poetry for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Book Review, and Poetry magazine.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author Wallace Stegner said James Dickey’s poems were “packed with primal energy” and concluded “What I am left with is an awed sense of the pure power of these words.”


By James Dickey

I have just come down from my father.
Higher and higher he lies
Above me in a blue light
Shed by a tinted window.
I drop through six white floors
And then step out onto pavement.

Still feeling my father ascend,
I start to cross the firm street,
My shoulder blades shining with all
The glass the huge building can raise.
Now I must turn round and face it,
And know his one pane from the others.

Each window possesses the sun
As though it burned there on a wick.
I wave, like a man catching fire.
All the deep-dyed windowpanes flash,
And, behind them, all the white rooms
They turn to the color of Heaven.

Ceremoniously, gravely, and weakly,
Dozens of pale hands are waving
Back, from inside their flames.
Yet one pure pane among these
Is the bright, erased blankness of nothing.
I know that my father is there,

In the shape of his death still living.
The traffic increases around me
Like a madness called down on my head.
The horns blast at me like shotguns,
And drivers lean out, driven crazy—
But now my propped-up father

Lifts his arm out of stillness at last.
The light from the window strikes me
And I turn as blue as a soul,
As the moment when I was born.
I am not afraid for my father—
Look! He is grinning; he is not

Afraid for my life, either,
As the wild engines stand at my knees
Shredding their gears and roaring,
And I hold each car in its place
For miles, inciting its horn
To blow down the walls of the world

That the dying may float without fear
In the bold blue gaze of my father.
Slowly I move to the sidewalk
With my pin-tingling hand half dead
At the end of my bloodless arm.
I carry it off in amazement,

High, still higher, still waving,
My recognized face fully mortal,
Yet not; not at all, in the pale,
Drained, otherworldly, stricken,
Created hue of stained glass.
I have just come down from my father.

My mother told me that the first time I connected word with concept was an evening when I pointed my baby fist at a lamp and lisped: “ight.”

Light is still my goal.

Thank you for reading this first Word Cloud. I hope you’ll come back and visit again.

  • The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992, by James Dickey
    Wesleyan University Press, University Press of New England
    ISBN 0-8195-2202-3
  • Babel to Byzantium: Poets & Poetry Now, by James Dickey
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    Library of Congress catalog card number: 68-10644
  • Good Poems, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor, Penguin Books, Published by the Penguin Group ISBN 978-0-14-200344-2 (pbk)


Word Cloud Photo by Larry Cloud

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
This entry was posted in Art, Poetry, United States, Word Cloud and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Word Cloud: MEMORABLE

  1. Excellent first entry, Nona. Welcome aboard!

  2. What Gene said. Great start. I have always like Dickey. A writer who lets his own soul hang out for all to see. I understand that. To do less is dishonest in a way. The Great Santini is about his father, and as someone who understands pilots, I must say that James Dickey nails it.

    Getting back to “memorable” as a word. That calls up those moments in my life that will be with me forever. The very first truly memorable moment came at age 10, and almost cost me my life. I have written a book about it, but the manuscript needs some help before I try to publish. Several things have already come out of that, including my story of Kirby Cowan and the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald.

  3. wordcloud9 says:

    Thank you — I like Dickey because of his honesty, the range of his work, and his vivid imagery. Memorable for certain.

  4. The Dickey poem reminded me of a short video I saw recently. The Hospital Window. A story of compassion and empathy.

  5. wordcloud9 says:

    Very O Henry — lovely.

  6. Wonderful, Nona! Fridays are now doubly good. 🙂 I am looking forward to seeing future installments.

    And I’ll repeat to the FfS crew — ya did good!!!

  7. James Knauer says:

    Very nice, Nona! Welcome to FFS!

  8. wordcloud9 says:

    Thank you

  9. wordcloud9 says:

    Good subject matter speaks for itself

  10. Anonymously nYours says:

    Interesting intertwine of Garrison….. As you know is my favorite unacclaimed “poet laureate” he has a licensing of words, that many cannot measure the meaning.

    The last time I saw Garrison was last October, if those rednecked southern baptists knew what he was saying, he surely would have been taken off of the stage midchourse…..

    As I recall some and I would like to get an audio of the full performance….. “Under the cotton cloud I go, diving in the patch of grass, through the valleys down below, I head to the hill above the plain, I rest my head in the mouth watering mountain that I have in my realm”…

    He went on for 10 minutes and that was the end of the show….
    An excellent entrenched drenching experience……

  11. Anonymously nYours says:

    Excellent choice, good first post….

  12. wordcloud9 says:

    Keillor’s genuine kindness helps him sneak a lot of things into the minds of the illiterati — he’s subversive in a very good way.

    Dickey is much more direct, but poems like “For the Last Wolverine,” “The Liberator Explodes” and “Listening to Foxhounds” are just as subversive — underneath all the manliness, there’s such a tender core.

  13. Anonymously nYours says:

    You know mame, I could not agree with you more….

  14. mespo727272 says:

    She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband and a bewildered Border Collie.
    Nona Rules!
    Now for the equally important stuff: what is that perplexed puppy’s name?

  15. wordcloud9 says:

    We name all of our dogs from a book entitled “Who’s Who and What’s What in Shakespeare,” because when I first met my husband he had a Cocker Spaniel named Alex and I had a friend named Alex, which caused confusion.

    Our Border Collie was on Death Row at the animal shelter — they thought she had Kennel Cough, but it turned out to be a mild congenital lung weakness which hasn’t slowed her down at all. But she had to stay in quarantine at the Vet for a week before we could finally bring her home. I found the word “affy” in the book, which meant “destined for, to affirm,” so she is Affy.

    The original word was probably pronounced rhyming with FIE, as in “fee, fie, fo fum” but we say her name as rhymed with daffy.

    Ask me for a name, you’re likely to get a story.

  16. P Carey says:

    Elegant, lovely, and enlightening. Thanks.

  17. mespo727272 says:

    “Ask me for a name, you’re likely to get a story.”

    Thanks, Nona. That’s the best reason to ask. Give my best to Affy from me et ux, et canis, Molly.

  18. wordcloud9 says:

    You’re welcome mespo727272 — Affy loves the attention — best to Molly.

    And thank you P Carey — good to see you here — Chuck is hard to turn down!

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