Dale Cottingham


From the church stoop, in dusky light,
surrounded by motionless, sweltering air,

I hear the congregation singing,
in their dozens, alkaline voices rising,

falling, crescendoing,
calming like waves, making

of individuals this unison,
a verve that raises them to tip-toes,

giving themselves to a collective purity
of volition, a story of faith,

a harmony that does not move or sway
by the slightest fraction,

August’s windless air hovering
over the yard’s brown grass,

and simmering parked cars—
their confluence still whelming,

resonating in me, in them,
evincing a truth I realize

more deeply each gleaming moment:
we don’t get what we want, unless

we want longing—
more purely ours

than any other humanity.
Let me be one with this unison

for a moment on this shaded stoop
in burning heat, in this green

oasis of naming—
take every line I’ve saved

from all my ineffable days,
let me surrender mere knowing.

Dale Cottingham is of mixed race, part Choctaw, part White. These poems are part of a collection he has in circulation for a publisher. He is a Breadloafer and won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year. He lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.