C. Dale Young practices medicine full-time, edits poetry for New England Review, and teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He is the author of The Second Person (Four Way Books 2007) and The Day Underneath the Day (Northwestern 2001). He lives in San Francisco.

Links:
C. Dale Young's site
C. Dale Young's blog

Three Poems by C. Dale Young


Fireweed

A single seedling, camp follower of arson . . .

Follower of ashes; follower
of the bleached-out, burned-out
cascade of buildings, lotfuls

of whitened soil speckled with debris
let down by a gutted church
still aspiring to an ether-blue sky

centuries gone; follower
of scripts apotheosized into smoke,
notes lifted into air by flames

that all but threatened the entire lane
with the silence we call a bed
of dirt; follower of the match,

the instigator here and abroad,
the matutinal magnifying glass
focusing light into unwitting

summer grass, into cruciform twigs;
follower of the caveat
ignored because it was too small;

follower of the fourth oldest dream --
the landscape burning and burning.


in memory of Amy Clampitt

[from The Day Underneath the Day]


Night Air

"If God is Art, then what do we make
of Jasper Johns?" One never knows
what sort of question a patient will pose,

or how exactly one should answer.
Outside the window, snow on snow
began to answer the ground below

with nothing more than foolish questions.
We were no different. I asked again:
"Professor, have we eased the pain?"

Eventually, he'd answer me with:
"Tell me, young man, whom do you love?"
"E," I'd say, "None of the Above,"

and laugh for lack of something more
to add. For days he had played that game,
and day after day I avoided your name

by instinct. I never told him how
we often wear each other's clothes—
we aren't what many presuppose.

Call it an act of omission, my love.
Tonight, while walking to the car,
I said your name to the evening star,

clearly pronouncing the syllables
to see your name dissipate
in the air, evaporate.

Only the night air carries your words
up to the dead (the ancients wrote):
I watched them rise, become remote.

[first appeared in Yale Review, reprinted on Poetry Daily]


Proximity

I have forgotten my skin, misplaced my body.
Tricks of mind, a teacher once said: the man
with the amputated right arm convinced he could

feel the sheets and air-conditioned air touching
the phantom skin. There must be a syndrome
for such a thing, a named constellation of symptoms

that correspond to the ghost hand and what it senses.
This morning, I felt your hand touch me on the shoulder
the way you would when you turned over in your sleep.

What syndrome describes this? Not the sense of touch
but of being touched. Waking, I felt my own body,
piece by piece, dissolving: my hands, finger by finger,

then the legs and the chest leaving the heart exposed
and beating, the traveling pulses of blood
expanding the great vessels. The rib cage vanished

and then the spine. If your right hand offends you,
wrote Mark, cut it off and throw it away,
for it is better for you to lose a part than to lose

the whole. But I have no word for this phantom
touch, and the fully real feeling of the hair
on your arm shifting over my own as your hand

moved from my shoulder and out across my chest.
Desire makes me weak, crooned the diva,
or was it Augustine faced with his own flesh?

Whisper me a few lies, god, beautiful and familiar lies.

[first appeared in The Southern Review]