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By James L. 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.


James Dickey, “The Hospital Window” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress.

Source: Helmets (Wesleyan University Press, 1964)

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Poet Bio

James L. Dickey
Although he considered himself first and foremost a poet, James Dickey is best known for his nightmarish 1970 novel Deliverance, made into a popular film. Born in Georgia, he spent most of his life in the South, working first in advertising and then, following the success of his first books of poetry, as a creative writing professor. His book Buckdancer’s Choice, which featured harrowing poems about his experience as a bomber pilot in WWII and the Korean War, won the 1965 National Book Award. In 1977 Dickey delivered a poem at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration gala. See More By This Poet

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