Weekly Poem: ‘These Arms of Mine’

BY David Chalian and Quinn Bowman  May 9, 2011 at 1:31 PM EDT

By David Kirby

         Sometimes interviewers want to know what
dead people I’d like to have dinner with,
                  but my answer to that is nobody.
I mean, I wouldn’t mind following Dante around
         and see who he talks to and where he shops and what

         his writing schedule is, but can you imagine
trying to have a conversation with Dante?
                  Yeah, he wrote the greatest poem ever,
but his world view would be totally different from mine,
         plus his temper was supposed to have been terrible.

         Shakespeare wouldn’t say anything, probably;
he’d be storing up bits for his next play. Whitman
                  would probably talk your head off, and then
you’d be bored and not like his work as much as you
         used to. No, I don’t want to have dinner anybody.

         But if you’re serious about time travel, I’d like
to go to Jamaica in 1967 and be sitting at a table
                  and drinking a Red Stripe in the after-hours club
where Bob Marley is playing, and Otis Redding,
         who is touring the island, comes in “like a god,”

         according to eyewitness accounts, and Bob Marley
looks up and begins to sing “These Arms of Mine.”
                  Wow. I tell you, I wouldn’t be myself.
I’d be Tolius or Tristan or Lancelot,
         crying my eyes out for Cressida or Isolde

         or Guinevere. She’d be on the battlements
of a castle in Troy or Wales or England,
                  all beautiful and sad-eyed, and I’d be clanking
up a storm as I drop my lance and brush
         back my visor and pound the table with my mailed fist

         while all the rastas look at me and say, “I and I a-go
cool out wit’ a spliff, mon!” But my arms
                  are burning, burning from wanting you
and wanting, wanting to hold you because
         I need me somebody, somebody to treat me right,

         oh, I need your woman’s loving arms to hold me tight.
And I . . . I . . . I need . . . I need your . . . I need
                  your tender lips, and if you would let these arms,
if you would let these arms of mine, oh, if you would
         just let them hold you, oh, how grateful I would be.


David Kirby is the author of several books of criticism, essays, children’s literature and poetry, including most recently, “Talking about Movies with Jesus” (2011) and “The House on Boulevard Street: New and Selected Poems” (2007), a finalist for the National Book Award. Kirby is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University.