When money will have nothing to do with me,
when the only voice I hear is my own
who doesn't think I'm a man at all --
I go to the café and sit among my amigos.
The woman whose left arm has blossomed into skulls and roses is my sister.
The man in the business suit, wrapped like a muzzle around his body,
is talking on the phone with a client. The client is my brother.
The man is my confidant . . .
So begins "Amigos," a standout work from Matthew Dickman's first collection, "All American Poem" (American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press: 85 pp., $14). The voice is casual and intimate, startling us with metaphors -- "blossomed into skulls," "wrapped like a muzzle" -- whose brilliance seems natural and unforced. Then, the tone suddenly shifts:
At any moment California will fall into the Pacific
and this congregation of ours will rise up
and walk across the Barnes & Noble parking lot
toward those breaking waves.
We will be together
in car accidents, train wrecks,
in a hot bath clouding up with our own blood
while the men and women we love read quietly in the other room,