David Ellis Dickerson


In its single page-plus-change on semicolons
when last I checked its mad certainties
Chicago's Manual had this to say
Mildred intends to go to Europe
her plans, however, are still quite vague.
And also
Mildred intends to go to Europe
however, she has made no plans.
Same story, slightly different versions,
like reading the ancient Gospels. I said a prayer
for Mildred, who, because she is named Mildred,
is likely old already—I said I hope
she commits to seeing Europe in
the time she still has left.
I hope
yet her arc is not encouraging.
I also learned, speaking of life’s questions, that
The controversial portrait had been
removed from the entrance hall

in its place had been hung
a realistic landscape.

And yet a few lines later
The controversial portrait had been
removed from the entrance hall

indeed, it had disappeared entirely from the building.
Again and again the semicolon
like a period with a twist
would add sadder ends to plain sad stories.
Joe had forgotten his reeds
therefore he could not play the oboe solo.
Frobisher had always assured his grandson
that the house would be his

yet there was no provision for this bequest in his will.
As if semicolons were a tool for those
eternally surprised by entropy.
The punctuation of bad planning. This can't be all it does.
If The Manual of Style teaches us anything
it is that We need to set priorities
that is, we must respond to immediate needs
as well as to long-term goals.

And this is why I hope it is poor Mildred
in a new decisive frame of mind
of whom the guidebook tells us
She enclosed a check for $145 (her final payment)
then, with relief, she sealed the envelope.



The Wheelbarrow's Reply to William Carlos Williams

no it really


David Ellis Dickerson is a regular contributor to “This American Life” and other public radio shows; he has an MFA from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. from Florida State. His literary work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Story Quarterly, and Slice, et al. He has also written for greeting cards, game shows, comic books, and planetarium exhibits, all the while holding out for that sweet sweet poetry fame.