Sunrise, 30 December 2020 Now is the hour of the small birds storming into the cypress tops, which do not bend as they do under the weight of magpies and ravens. A murmuration of morning steam rises off the cement factory. Disguised as fast-moving clouds, they power up the valley; an insubstantial mother tugging at the hand of her sleepy puff of a child, running off into nothing. Now the sun snaps across the mountains an incandescent ribbon of rose-lipped pink. Clouds, scattered across the measureless pale-blue tile of sky, explode into tulip petals, pink swans, holy doves alight.
Old Women and Old Men at the Ferry Stop
(The old women)
We remember the harem of the walled citrus grove;
Old women, how like apple trees we gather now:
Pink, heavy with stories of
some familiar odd thing —
mimosa trees, a seagull’s wing.
The wind rattles branch and bone
creases in our skin drawn dry
the feathered marks begin
(The old men)
A grove of old men gathers at the dock
live oak, pin oak;
Backs curved, stilted up
Worn down with the effort of standing
Dry twig of a laugh cracks wry.
The empty and chaotic air,
that passing through the trumpet sounds:
Ferry outbound, ferry in
Grebes baste across the swanless surface
21 March 2020, Lombardia, Italia
the world has stopped
crowned with silence.
On the occasion of the municipality posting a letter asking people to pay their cemetery dues
Boxes of disremembered bones
expatriated into/out of locus
the heartbreak of a January
The circus of your funeral came to town
with show posters
and the cacophony of bells pealing
down to the quick
insistent, pacing, rhythm;
The priest’s nasal bullhorn prayers appealing
down the night’s procession.
Your show posters remain. Peeling
down at the corner.
Not firmly affixed or
not enough to hold.
MON REALE / MASON’S EUCHERIST
Tourists take photos while the faithful take communion.
The priest extends God
again and again.
within the cardboard flavoured
benediction of holy bread
reconstituted by faiths’ sanguine tongue.
The exchange of force:
the weighted wheel that rights itself
the cam shaft
the finger on the shutter button:
charged reflex of the aperture flash-writes the icons’ golden tesserae
again and again.
Monday, in the winding weekday of a suburban street:
The bread man drives a panel truck
newgreen once, now filmed with summer dust cast up from the road
innocent as the first stones that years ago
smacked off enamel chips and so
engendered oxides’ ruddy rose.
Chanting through the nasal static of a loud speaker
His rough square hands convey
in paper, through which butter has begun to soak,
delicate pastry filled with almond paste and dark chocolate
lightly dusted with powdered sugar, and then:
two swallows of thick, black coffee,
in a plastic dixie cup.
The 10 a.m. taste of salvation
again delivered to working men.
Cristo morirà ancora
come ha fatto ogni anno
poichè Dio sa quando.*
They held a New Orleans Funeral for Jesus:
Woodwinds, brass and the big bass drum.
After awhile the rain began to come;
Parishioners popped up their umbrellas,
Madonna was sacked to protect the stars
Spangling perfect electrified hair that
Should have been disheveled in grief.
Christ: unable to awaken, trapped in an opiate nightmare,
Pallid, couch-ridden, sick with flowers,
Widow-borne through the streets on a lacy bier.
Mary: politely dolorosa, her face more composed than that
Of the old mother dressed in black
Hanging out of the window to watch Her pass,
Baptizing the parading crowd with tears
Thrown out like old wash water.
What is left clean and what is soiled?
The sorrow of sin shifts from house to street
To be tracked back in on the slack-shod feet
Of grandchildren, dogs and beggared questions,
Salved in the last moment with words and oil:
quidquid deliquisti / in all that you have failed.
Christ will die again
As he’s done every year
Since God knows when.
Back in a long ago summer I was working on a remodeling project in the suburbs of the Sicilian town of Marsala, a stunningly beautiful place where Garabaldi’s ‘mille’ made their first landing: the beginning of the work-still-in-progress known as Italian Unification.
Contrary to the myth one hears in Northern Italy, I saw southern Italian’s working hard from six in the morning until four in the afternoon with not much of a break. I recall, after lunch, laying down on the cool tile floor before launching into the next part of the project…and this poem about the often unsung pleasures of manual labour:
Caulk it all up to experience…
I’ve had enough silicone under my nails
To make a fertility goddess of a Hollywood starlette
(or at least to make five clean breasts of it).
You’d think I’d have the bank account
Of a Brazilian plastic surgeon by now…
Folks don’t pay the big bucks
To have their tiles enhanced.
Will I list this work on my table of discontents?
It could be a Tuesday.
I could be anchored to an anonymous desk
In some downtown gratte-ciel looking out a window that isn’t there
Blinking against no sunlight, thinking:
“Out, out brief candle.”
then, looking down at the shame of clean and idle hands:
“If only I had enough silicone under my nails
To make a fertility goddess of a Hollywood starlette…”
To read more of the back story click HERE.