I am blue in the face
sky’s edge, distant,
cracks and curls.
Ozone’s filthy fingers
ruck parched dusk.
water and vinegar
think of Christ
“E’-li, E’-li, la’-ma sa-bach’-tha-ni?”
amber thick, sour smell
slaps against our Savior’s sense.
Now he’s off –
Hard business for him to harrow hell;
Hard business for me,
just sitting still.
The inside cover of my Cultural Atlas is covered with Italian shelf-paper. I used it because when I tore up thefront cover, I thought that the inside should be stabilized (another embellished error). This paper is still made in this country; a lovely, heavy, egg-cream ground with black, red, dark blue, or green patterns. When I had first moved to Italy, I lived in a rural valley outside Florence; I was trading work for a place to stay with an American-Italian couple. One of the first things Adele asked me to do was strip off the old paper from her kitchen shelves and re-cover them with new paper. It marked one of my first trips into the treasure-palace that is the Italian ‘whatnot’ store. While I was living there I was in the process of a separation that turned into a divorce and a cultural shift that involved re-evaluating the (then) 38 years of my life in Texas.
The poetry/story of this can be found in my Orphan Poetry series; however, later, I also made, from the empty tissue paper ‘books’ that remain after one has used up the thin sheets of gold leaf, a series of impressions of my left hand made with white marble-dust and gum arabic. In these two ‘books’ there is one page and one hand-print for each year of my life with the year written in pencil on the bottom-left and my age on the top-right. They overlap and stick, they are messy (as my life has been) and made of the dust of rocks that were once marine fossils, our common calcite frame.
This attempt to make peace between my Texas past and my Italian present is included in the collage on the first page of the Cultural Atlas. The envelope from the gold leaf (delivered from Italy to Texas and then repatriated when I moved here) holds the book. Above the envelope is the word PAX – which speaks to the common Roman/Latin cultural roots between the two places – from the instructions for an IKEA shelving unit – representing a more recent, consumer empire that uses those common roots to try and make clients feel ‘at home’.
I will remember the branches and the light
filtering through the locust grove.
You will remember the emerald brilliance
of the grass.
We will remember together the unyielding line of granite
that still gives way over time:
the fine fullness of the moonlight across our whiteness
the vermilion flash of the cardinal
Cool air rolling lightly over and under everything like waterfilling our mouths with flower petalstasting of honey olive oil fresh bread
From the Quarry at Tishomingo
Comes this Pre-Cambrian intrusion
Begotten when the first rain dropped on boiling rock.
Only later to be named
With sounds recalling some child’s summer game.
These random elements, the stuff of stars
Cooled by Bowen’s ruled order (though he was not invented yet)
Pyroxene first, then salmon coloured plagioclase;
Last, cloudy silicate of common quartz
All this a billion years ago.
You know I loved you even then;
The day this rock was formed.
J’aime bien cette image (ce tableau?)
d’un homme nu et beau
au bain chaud…ses mains, inoubliables
comme ses yeux – les deux,
plein de ma poésie…
C’est assez á dire qu’enfin
les pages ont perdu,
Je viendrai et lui retrouverai
reconquérir le territoire
de chaque phrase,
et chaque point.
Je suis sûr que leurs sont inscrits
à la surface de sa chair,
et mes mains, mes yeux, mes lèvres
It pleases me this image (this scene?)
of a man, bare, beautiful
in a steaming bath…his hands as unforgettable
as his eyes – both full
of my poetry…
Enough to say that in the end
the pages are lost
I will come and find him again
reconquer the territory
of each sentence,
I’m sure they are inscribed
on the surface of his skin
and my eyes, my hands, my lips
will find again