James Dickey was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1923. While Dickey’s early career was one devoted to writing poetry, it was the publication of his novel, Deliverance, and then in 1972 the release of the film that made him a popular figure. Dickey began teaching soon after the publication of his first book, Into the Stone, and was poet-in-residence at the University of South Carolina. His third volume of poetry, Buckdancer’s Choice won him the National Book Award. Dickey served in both the Second World War in the U.S. Army night fighter squadron and in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He was invited to read his poem, “The Strength of Fields” at Jimmy Carter’s presidential inauguration in 1977. Dickey died in 1997.
A View of Fujiyama after the War
Wind, and all the midges in the air,
On wings you cannot see, awake
Where they must have been sleeping in flight.
I breathe, and twenty mile away
And all other mountains are nothing.
The ground of the enemy's country
Shakes; my bones settle back where they stand.
Through the bloom of gnats in the sun,
Shaken less than my heart by the tremor,
The blossom of a cherry tree appears.
The mountain returns my last breath,
When it is still, when it is as still as this,
It could be a country where no one
Ever has died but of love.
I take the snow's breath and I speak it.
What I say has the form of a flame
Going all through the gnats like their spirit,
And for a swarming moment they become,
Against the one mountain in Heaven.
It is better to wait here quietly,
Not for my face to take flight,
But for someone to come from the dead
Other side of the war to this place:
Who thinks of this ground as his home,
Who thinks no one else can be here,
His hand through a visage of insects,
To pluck the flower. But will he feel
His sobbing be dug like a wellspring
Or a deep water grow from his lids
To light, and break up the mountain
Which sends his last breath from its summit
Can he know that to live at the heart
Of his saved, shaken life, is to stand
Overcome by the enemy's peace?