14.1 (Fall 2009)   The 2River View AuthorsPoemsPDFMake the MagArchives2River
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Paul Dickey

Failed Portrait of the Artist's Daughter

Her face does not haunt us, like his other
work. In his famous Mosaic period,
eyes and mouths blur together in color
beyond and within surface — as if irises
reflect the tales of tongues. This seems
an unfinished canvas — nose, lips stamped.
You think that cannot be true. Whether
she is beautiful is not the issue, or if
her father left her mother to paint nudes
in a warmer studio. He has somewhere
to go this afternoon. He is in a hurry,
has forgotten something. His own life
he has kept from the canvas.
Critics will add the master craftsman,
short of finances, needed to produce
a hundred daughters in an afternoon.

A Reno County Church Cemetery

Archaic, or at least historic, farmers nod off
in assigned pews with head rests,
their location based on annual donations.
Stoic board members with iron, brown hands

governed potluck suppers, rummage sales,
Wednesday night prayer meetings,
budgeted and unbudgeted maintenance
projects. Not for a minute do they care now

to pinch their wives of sixty odd years,
who lying next to them still dream
of pot roasts and time with grandbabies.
It took a century to build this church

on nothing but faith and hard work,
time no one had enough of. The sign
"First Lutheran Church Cemetery" groans
from its own rust like it has for twenty years.

The only thing odd is the town drunk
from the nineteen thirties settling in the clay
and loam in the back row, who got his plot
and burial when an unknown woman

landed into town, flashed nothing but makeup
and a smile (his only daughter it turned out)
and on the side slipped the temporary
reverend a brand new one hundred dollar bill.

Paul Dickey lives in Omaha, Nebraska. His poems are found in Crab Orchard Review, failbetter, Mid-American Review, Rattle, and Swink Online. They Say This Is How Death Came Into the World was a semi-finalist for the 2008 Sentence Book Award. contact