Bird Years – Dicko King

Bird Years – Dicko King

Bird Years by Dicko King

Poetry. Paper, Perfect Bound. 80 pages
2017, ISBN: 978-1-936419-69-2 $16.95 + S&H

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This is a book of false memories and myth — and recollection and revelation excavated out of the author’s unconscious, the pieces laid out and puzzled over. This is the moment’s archeologist hovering over the lost past.

One enters as if falling into a painting—a near desolate landscape . . . of harsh reds . . . where lizards go to die, a primal world of early-risen angst and longing, disappointment and disconnectedness begun when a child is left at a kindergarten door by his mother. This book sifts through the shards of a childhood—the remnants carried forward into adulthood as tokens of the past yet they are a heavy weight, poorly distributed, and shouldered such that one is hunched low as we meet ourselves on the road. What is it of the frightened boy stays with us, running parallel to the running man? This is a grand meander through the daunting piecework of making a life.

“Bird Years” is holographic, its facets cut like diamond—mirroring at one moment, disappearing into another the stifled emotions of a child growing old, his world being lost to inattention and fading memory.

Or is this a portal into the world which is but . . . a bump-out in the universe . . . a world which mother swears is safe. A language is spoken here which is the natural patois of a lost child—the aging forever-child who longs for a connection that never is, yet is ideally imagined as if our a life lived must be more than the long soft pain of a father missing at crucial times—or is simply a story of the missing child in the childhood missed, the bits and memories of childhood lyrically meandering through a recollection and a fresh mythology meant to ease the solitary and bewildering puzzle of the human condition.

Praise for Dicko King’s work:
     “Bird Years” resumes Dicko King’s examination of time that he began in “Doggerland”, but now the poet assumes the cowl of the contemplative. The poems are elegiac but not mournful or melancholic, attesting to King’s skills as a poet who exposes the complicated myths, confusions, grievances, and shortcomings within family history that prevent us from finding peace and developing compassion. This book is a fearless meditation, urgent gospel, brilliant memento mori, encouraging us to “Listen up…” – Chris Burawa – “The Small Mystery of Lapses”

     This is a visceral book, informed by both heart and body. The meddling, doubting mind isn’t given much space here. Instead, King has the courage to delve into the welter of family history – its ties, pulls, breaks and confusions -without trying to resolve it.
     Grandfather, father, sons -generations work and struggle for love, the dead as involved as the living. These are fierce people: In the poem “Our Ma” King writes: “There is a eulogy which claims she slew/the enemies of her sons before/we were born”. King rekindles these stories, and his own, with both boldness and subtlety.
     And praise. When a mouth opens, it opens in prayer. The spiritual elements in the book are quiet. That’s how we know they are true. – Tam Lin Neville – “Triage”

This poetry collection considers memory, family, the body, aging, and loss.

In his first collection, Doggerland: Ancestral Poems (2015), King explored the deep history of family and the Irish. Here, he touches on legend—one section is titled “Mythic”—but locates many poems in personal childhood memory and aging, his parents’ and his own. In “Bird Years,” the titular poem plays with the more expected concept of dog years (the next poem’s title, in fact) to give King’s own age, lending it strangeness: “In man years, I am sixty-seven.” The speaker sees himself as having a precarious hold on existence, like the California condor with which he later identifies . This vulture went extinct in the wild but has been slowly and expensively reintroduced; the poet writes, “More public support is needed / to save me for a little while longer… / I am nearly extinct.” That he compares himself to a vulture, not some more cuddly endangered species, comports with the weary mood that inhabits many poems in this collection. Several pieces reflect on parental decline but also decline in the speaker’s generation. In “Mouth,” for example, the speaker writes of himself and siblings: “We are wary—listening to Tom, / our weary brother, the reliquary,” his sawlike words “working the lean hindquarter / of our childhood.” Here, with the speaker’s caution and resistance alongside Tom’s weary work, age isn’t a time of retirement and rest but of increasing labor. Tom becomes a kind of archaeologist as the siblings talk; “on a last late night of excavation, / he makes a deep wound deeper while the wives sleep I —digs at our new, our long dead.” But beside all this difficult work is the poem’s lilt, as with wary/weary/reliquary. This hints interestingly at the speaker’s Irish background (also underlined by “reliquary”), Ireland being a country marked by both struggle and poetry. Forgetting takes on an ambiguous role as loss and protection from the past; the book’s final poem ends with elephants peacefully forgetting something their mahouts bitterly contest.

Strong, spare, and elegiac poems; a fine collection.
Kirkus Reviews

Library Lion

His heart was big
as a library lion’s.

It held back nothing.

there is inventory:
Boxes of good.

And what I say is:

this heart

meant everything

to his liver

and his lungs

and all his
other parts
his tongues

which were several,
yet he was

Mum on all matters
of this heart, and, yes,

it was difficult for him,
the plain language,

putting a word to love.

About Dicko King
Dicko King is the author of the poetry collection, Doggerland: Ancestral Poems. He was born in the old Carney Hospital in South Boston, and was raised in St. Margaret’s parish in Dorchester. He lives in Phoenix with his wife, Treva and the ghosts of the past.