And Then

Matthew Dickman

In memory of Ernie Casciato

Because it’s perhaps unknowable or unbearable we tend to fold time into something we can

recognize like a shirt, neatly, crisp even.

I do it by saying and then.

I was a son for so long and then I was a father. The moon lit up the meadow and then a fox stepped out from behind

the pine. The town was quiet for years and then the traveler arrived.

You died on a Monday and then a week went by.

You had a body and then you did not have a body.

You had hands and then you did not, you had feet, ears, you had a car you had music you liked to listen to you had extra ice in your drinks you had suffered you had learned to play an instrument you had

once been someone’s baby and she lifted you up into the air and said your name in Italian, Ernesto, and you made a gurgling sound

and then she pulled you back

to earth, back into the warm groove of her neck and held you and rocked you

back and forth and then she smelled the top of your head and then some clouds moved

over the two of you and then they moved on and then your father called out

from inside the house and then you closed your eyes, and then she rubbed your small back and then she began to sing to you and then you fell asleep.

Matthew Dickman is the author of All-American Poem (APR, 2008), Mayakovsky’s Revolver (Norton, 2012), Wonderland (Norton, 2018), and Husbandry (Norton, 2022). His work has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, London Review of Books, and Esquire Magazine, among others. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his sons Hamza and Owen.