ankle deep and drowning poems by anne magee dichele

picture of anne magee dichele

Photo by Joshua Dichele


Anne Magee Dichele’s new book, Ankle Deep and Drowning, is full of troubled delight. The early poems in the collection, which express a sense of loss and yearning for a constantly vanishing horizon, are dispelled by a breakthrough of “the goodness of it all.” In the end, the poems in this exhilarating volume affirm the power of love and the “glorious abundance” of things, a belief that despite the worst life can offer, “we are carried” by a power beyond us, a power that sees us through. Father Carol Aricio writes that “Ankle Deep and Drowning is a celebration of the intimacy of connections – moments never truly embraced and yet never untouched, filling and yet not fulfilled, helping us learn to be carried and touch the ultimate reality as the words to describe it became wordless. One verse from ‘On Certain Days’ captures the experience for me: ‘...when a stranger brushes past and there is a moment of deep recognition / nearly startling each of you / because although you have not met / your souls resonate.’ ”
  ankle deep and drowning poems by anne magee dichele cover image
  Cover painting by Shirley Patxot.

Anne Magee Dichele has been a passionate advocate for social justice in education, and for providing all children with the opportunity to be taught by talented and compassionate teachers. At Quinnipiac University she is currently a professor in the Master of Arts in Teaching program, which she also directs, preparing novice teachers to become teachers of distinction and passion. Anne is also Chair of the Board of the Side by Side Charter School in South Norwalk, a school she and other teachers established in 1997 as a model public school to promote social justice and equitable education for all children. Recently, her life-long love of poetry led to an invitation to participate in a twelve-person workshop led by Marge Piercy. That workshop was followed by acceptance to the Living School, a two-year journey of spiritual reflection and contemplative immersion hosted by Richard Rohr, OFM, through the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Anne’s time in New Mexico studying the mystical traditions of spirituality and her daily meditation practice for more than thirty years have deeply influenced her poetry. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her rescue dog, Cutler, and her wonderful sons nearby.





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ISBN 978-1-936482-99-3

Copyright © 2015 by Anne Magee Dichele

6" x 9" paperback, 64 pages



Copyright ©2015 by Anne Magee Dachele




I have spent
long hours in the laundromat
of my mind

pre-soaking neurons
in dank waters
of every why and why not,

through each cycle
of life,

spin-dry thoughts
tossed and tumbled
over and over

until my synapses
run out of quarters
to feed this need

for a clean heart.



Our mother brought home
matching sailor dresses,
gray with red piping.
Red star-appliqués
lay at the crossroad of the piping,
anchoring the flat rectangle collar,
a flap of material that flew cape-like
when running, which made me
love it all the more.

Red piping also rimmed the flounce of skirt,
the short sleeves, the waistline,
while pockets for secret treasures
hid within the wealth of fabric.

Those dresses, exactly the same but for size,
mirrored all that I wished to be:
beautiful, older, her.
We wore them Easter Sunday.

Sitting in the pew,
always shy and unsure, I leaned into her,
running my finger across the lines of our skirts,
adoring her protective glance,
her azure eyes so blue strangers would comment,
flecked with prism-shards of silver light
that I envied.

My sailor-dress was ruined
the day I cracked my forehead
on the coffee table corner and bled
and bled until black threads of stitches
criss-crossed my eyebrow.

I cried for the dress more than the gash,
knowing that little could be done
to rescue the ruined frock
or my desire to be blue-eyed.

Slow Ascent

for Remi, 1941-1972

My older brother
at sixteen
still could not climb stairs.

A fixture on those steps,
he made the methodical
daily journey
on his backside,
as familiar as the lovely

I, racing up
two at a time
with the spindle legs
of a young girl,
triumphant and breathless,

skirted his presence
as easily as the basket
of fresh laundry
left on the landing,

he panting softly,
his long teenage frame
jutting out in the sharp angles
of scrawn and sickly thinness
I had yet to notice.

Gathering his strength for the task,
planting his palms firmly
on each tread,
straining to overcome
the short distance
between the risers,

he would lift, sit, rest,
begin again.

Thirteen steps.

At age six, I counted,
perhaps knowing then
that it somehow mattered,

or simply because counting
itself was new to me,
a lens that changed the world,

a forever game of stones and buttons,
fingers and toes,
tokens and time.

Other homes like ours
had lamps and couches,
sinks and radiators,

but not a slow-moving
who labored to breathe
and did not go outdoors

and though much older,
could not count
as well as I.

Driving to School

It is a mile,
perhaps less,

our chance
to be, simply,
mother and son.

The car rolls
down sleepy streets.
He is quiet, safe,

by his father’s
tight-lipped smiles
and no-shows
at little league,

slammed doors
and empty gin bottles
hidden in trash cans.

We hum radio tunes
until we arrive
and hesitate
as others behind us beep.

I wave him on, watching
as he shifts the weight
of his backpack

and his world.

Just Past Café du Monde

Her face
haloed by wild outcroppings
of stiff dreadlocks,
hair and yarn,
clumps of dust.

She is all thin black lines
and furious curlicues,
a bizarre pen and ink
drawn by some manic artist.

The soft French lift
of her words
is so elegant and fluid
she could be asking
for directions to the Louvre,
s’il vous plait?
or where to find
a Hermes scarf
near the Champs-Elysée.

But she asks
only for change.

As I place a dollar
in her plastic drinking cup,
she peers at me intently,
a queen questioning
the true intention of the gift.

Then, with the slow tenderness
of a timid child,
she kisses my cheek
and whispers, Maman, Maman.

New Orleans lays bare the soul –
the strange comfort of that kiss,
the scratch of her rough lips

is seared into my skin.

Morning Sparrow

Single sparrow,
squat and plump,
chubby toddler of a bird,

her muted taupes and browns
drawing little attention
to the solitary feast awaiting:
the luscious berries
of the holly bush.

Brow furrowed,
tiny black-bead eye darting,
nervously watching for would-be

One last wary glance,
deciding she is alone,
she plucks two, three, six
juicy red pearls
from amongst the brittle polished leaves,

throwing back her beak,
crimson pebbles
sliding down her gullet
one after another
after another.

Such gluttonous, glorious abundance
this early gray morning.
She is joyous –
as am I.

Do Nothing

There is no achievement,
No path required.

There is a road;
you are on it.

There is a way;
you are going there,
a child pushed
in a carriage.

It is not your decision
no amount of thinking
will explain

Do nothing.
You will still live.
Be nothing.
You will still be loved.

Nothing is earned.
Enjoy the gift,
a choice
allowed to each.

Laugh, love,
give and gain more.

We breathe only mercy.

On Certain Days

On certain days
when gentle spring rains
and the scent of grasses about to be born
fill you

and winter is falling away
and you know this
in the way an animal knows;

or when a stranger brushes past
and there is a moment of deep recognition,
nearly startling each of you
because although you have not met,
your souls resonate;

or when a housefly clings,
unmoved, to the front screen,
and you find yourself
the delicacy of wing
the fluorescent green eye,

the smallness and inconsequence
bringing you to weep
for so much of life
you have neglected –

on these days there is a thread,
an intricate net that cannot
be thought through,

but tugs or pulls
or catches suddenly,

and a recognition
both humbling and exhilarating
assures us
we are carried.