The Humans

Melissa Dickson Click to

mdickson-207Melissa Dickson’s debut collection, Cameo, was published in 2011 by New Plains Press. Her work has recently appeared in North American Review, Southern Humanities Review, Literary Mama, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Her Medusa-themed poems are forthcoming under the title Sweet Aegis in 2013. She holds an MFA in Visual Arts from SVA and an MFA in poetry from Converse College. She is a mother of four.

Have scattered, have dithered and dathered, the humans
In helmets, in velvet, and veil, the humans recoil to their roosts
With buckles and booze, in funny white shoes,
The humans in duds of charmeuse, in knickers or knit, they scatter

And gather to chitter and chatter. The humans they scatter,
They wave and they whimper the glib and the glibber, scattered
Like feathers or flint. They rumble and riot, roost
In the viaduct, cruel fellas in slippers or boots, shoes

Patent or suede, slacks checkered with jade, shoo
Them home with their cheap chirping hearts, battered they scatter,
The dear pitter patter of boys and girls tumbled and tossed, scattered
Then smattered they swig and they swagger and shoot, shoehorned

And shopworn, the hoodlums and well-born, the humans
All clamor, get fatter and fatter, their brims and their shoe
Leather burst, go home to your harems, your roosts
Ripe with cherubs, you belles and you barons, your shoes

Laced with scarabs, you roosters and hens, you peckers in pens, you scatter
and stammer and flit. The humans, they want and they wane. The humans


12 Responses to The Humans

  1. Madeline Thorpe says:

    The alliteration and parallel structure in the poem adds an intensity to its overall tone. The internal rhyme and repetition also adds a musicality to the poem. Humans, the subject of the poem, appear to be flighty and are likened to birds. One interesting aspect of the poem is the language of movement: “scattered,” “rumble,” “riot,” and “clamor.” Dickson also uses opposites to convey the complexities of human nature: “Patent or suede,” “boys and girls,” hoodlums and well-born.” The negative depiction of human nature across all classes is interesting and framed with these elements.

  2. Marjorie Power says:

    This poem made me happy. It’s rare to come across anything this well written that does that. Dr. Seuss would have enjoyed it, I’m sure.

  3. Ann Persons says:

    I like the imagery of birds (chickens?) in this poem. In fact, the poem’s rhythm, rhyme, and diction all evoke birds and birds pecking, as though humans are just as self-centered and wild and foolish as these animals. I also like how the poem begins and ends–the enjambment of the last line, coupled with the fact that it is one word, ironically makes the whole poem feel more serious. It lingers.

  4. Miles Abell says:

    At first the poem is light and seems like a jaunty accumulation of alliterations and repeated rhymes–they scattered, they scatter, they gather, they scatter–but in the penultimate stanza the mood shifts. The humans get fat and their clothes burst, and the narrator commands them to “go to their harems,” then begins addressing them in the second person. Thereafter it seems the narrator disapproves of the humans who “want and wane”.

  5. Taylor McPherson says:

    As mentioned in the comments above me, I liked how humans were compared to chickens in this poem. I feel like the chicken isn’t something people are often compared to so it was a fresh take. It almost seemed to me as if this poem could have been told from a fowl’s point of view, maybe using words they knew to describe humans, not knowing that how they are describing humans is how they are often described themselves. No matter who the speaker is, the language and descriptive images really make the poem different.

  6. Isabella Martin says:

    When I first read through this poem, I imagined it coming from the perspective of a higher life form looking down on the poor, silly, trifling humans. This poem deals with humanity at its most shallow and frivolous, pointing out our obsession with clothing and outward appearance, as well as our love of idle and superficial chatter. I loved the rhythm and how much it confused me. I kept expecting it to fall into a simpler, Dr. Seuss-esque meter, but then each line would take an unexpected rhythmic turn and surprise me. This made the poem feel lively and engaging.

  7. Sam O'Dell says:

    I really enjoyed this poem. I shared with Isabella the perception that the poem seems to come from the perspective of an almighty being with total power over the humans he’s describing. The poem definitely belittles much of what humans concern themselves about and pokes fun at our weaknesses while ignoring some of humanity’s greatest strengths, such as love and empathy. The only relationships depicted in the poem are between humans who “chatter,” leading me to believe the speaker can’t discern between relationships that are superficial and those that are much deeper, causing his evident disdain for human kind.

  8. Katie Toomb says:

    I really enjoyed the musicality of this poem. The alliteration and rhyme the author uses makes the long sentence that makes up the poem manageable and it flows well. I loved the allusion of birds and agree with Annie that this poem depicts humans as chickens, who “gather to chitter and chatter” without purpose before they “scatter.” I feel that this poem is critiquing the flighty and shallow nature of humans, who are more interested in material goods (thus the allusions to shoes and clothing) than in forming meaningful relationships with others.

  9. Tyler Van Riper says:

    I personally enjoyed the cyclical nature of this poem. It seems to begin in the middle as the poet does not explicitly tell us who “have scattered”; however, the ending fragment finally lets on that it is, indeed, “the humans.” In this way, one could read this poem from beginning to end indefinitely. It gives the impression that, no matter how many of the humans “wane,” there will always be a new generation just beginning to “scatter” and “want” and wear “funny white shoes”.

  10. Iva Weidenkeller says:

    Although I tend to stay away from poetry that has recurrent rhyming, I find that it works well in this poem. The way it trips off the tongue suggests that it would be a fun poem to hear the author read, to hear which parts she stresses and which she deemphasizes. I also like how the title is also part of the first line, and how it ends the poem, and I agree with previous comments that the speaker seems to be some more omniscient being passing judgement on the lowly humans.

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