Dale Cottingham

I am of mixed race, part Choctaw, part White.  I am a Breadloafer, won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year and am a finalist in the 2021 Great Midwest Poetry Contest.

So Little Is Possible

You had your reasons, that much
was sure. They gathered like a storm.
There was lightning, thunder,  
even wind in the low places
while you slid the ring back to me.
I watched on the plains.  
More than the open road that lead away, more
than the silly efficiency apartment I took, its 
layers of silence drilling through me, or 
women on the street who left me skeptical, jaded,
it was the flame in the cave that flickered
reaching light to the farthest reaches,
dark corners.  Imagine a river
silty and red, usually at low flow, 
but of a sudden pulsing in flood, 
tearing the innocent bank.
Now imagine you’re on it,
riding the current, passing 
houses, fields, watching water
fold over its folds like a narrative. 
How can you judge what turns 
are critical to your oeuvre?
As a hazed sky hovers, I see
a small girl playing at roadside.
I want to stop, bend to her. I want 
to tell her so much but
she won’t understand till
she finds out on her own.
It’s too late for the night cap
or the family pics on the mantel
or the year books in the attic
to give much solace. So, let’s
course on, take the road to the lake,
find a sense of humor
in the predicament.  At one point 
I thought so much was possible,
now I know it’s not so.

Silence Is The Last Word

Did I write that
and does it reflect who I am now?
Don’t I always teeter between who I was
and will be? The car A/C is running

as the heat is up again today,
my mind resonating with thoughts
or are they ideas?  Thoughts seem too grand
but ideas too meager. I need to make
a more precise exploration of the difference 
but not now,

for I still ride this polemic that
comes in fulsome gusts seeming  
to offer so much, then subsides
yet comes again

keeping me in the swim
thinking they’ll lead to other thresholds
or new ways to savor her mischievous eyes 
as she lets go her sports bra 
as if this time it will count . . .  

It’s so silly, isn’t it, hoping
there’s another world.
I’m trapped in this one
with this language and the clock winding down:
silence, assured, surrounding, is the last word. 

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