Sunrise, 30 December 2020 – by Bonnie McClellan

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

For Matthew, on the occasion of his 57th birthday: 18 June 2020

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

disappearing threads.


On the occasion of the municipality posting a letter asking people to pay their cemetery dues – by Bonnie McClellan

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

sad berth

the heartbreak of a January

blossoming cherry.

The Housewife’s Lament: Calliope


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.

Monte Reale/Mason’s Eucherist: by Bonnie McClellan


Tourists take photos while the faithful take communion.

The priest extends God

again and again.

within the cardboard flavoured

benediction of holy bread

He Is

reconstituted by faiths’ sanguine tongue.

The exchange of force:

the weighted wheel that rights itself

the pendelum

the cam shaft

the finger on the shutter button:

charged reflex of the aperture flash-writes the icons’ golden tesserae

to memory

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

unintelligible words.

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.

Caulonian Suite: IV. Venerdi Santo / Good Friday

Venerdi Santo,
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.

*Good Friday,
Christ will die again
As he’s done every year
Since God knows when.

Marsala: Caulk it all up to Experience…

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…

Fat chance,

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.”

“out, out.”


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.

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