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Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Dusk feathered in shadow
watches the moon hatch
from a niche of sky, white larva
waiting to expand its wings of light.
The evening paints them well;
bird of prey and opaque moth
eyeing each other in contention.
One wants to consume the other;
and the other -- to outwit
the predatory darkness. This sorrow
I have untethered
into moments of silence
and mountains. Its presence
larger but weaker than the moon,
more naive, even beautiful
in its blue sojourn from the soul.
The Ego To Her Monk
And so you bring me here
to witness how:
you live in a hut built of mud and stone,
dine on kelp leaves
and water cress floating
among the rocks of St. Kilda,
taste wild honey sweet
off a waxen comb
crafted by bees humming
their own Salve Regina,
write verse with the stray
feather of goose or duck,
muffle your ache
with the moan of seals,
in the waking dawn,
tie your robes
with a twist of grape vine,
and cut your hair
when it lengthens past
the ear lobe.
And so you bring me here
to say -- as temptress born
from your grate of bone
I will perish.
The turf shall become my tower
into which I fall
bowel-deep, my white throat
consumed by worm and beetle,
its vessel of vain song
to the masonry
of seed and loam,
the slow fade of sin.
And so you bring me here --
an obdurate stare, too shocked
to coax or tremble.
Rain christens the terrace
and I share twilight with street lamps, pigeons --
a book of pressed leaves. Dried foliage
slides between pages that speak of a child
who sold matches and lit three of them
to keep warm on the streets of a cold city.
She struck each against the wall and watched flames
erupt in visions of comfort and flight.
I thought about her story when walking the park.
Leaves flared at my feet, yellow first. A flashback
where the sun magnified my shadow on stone
as I sat grasping the ocean. A girl who decided then
she wanted to fly. A sea bird, an artist.
A second leaf caught my glance
with its red warning of change. I reached out
and remembered my son's narrow ship
floating in the fountain. He was twelve on the verge
of other things. The boat shook. Its sail a wing. Its rope
a root stretching toward me and branches bent low --
trying to grab the spent wishes of childhood.
And there was a third leaf, brown like the luggage
that stays half unpacked, bohemian in this flat
facing a queen's quarters at Versailles. Carrier birds
sense my cartography. How I've moved from Paris
to the outskirts of town -- a smaller place with silk
wall paper, the tightening of middle age.
Long After Ulysses
Goats were left on an island
by the conquistadors
shining in their argent splendor
with other places to sail.
The hills were harsh; shrubs
and dry patches of grass
where the livestock grazed
on strange ground, sensing a savage wind.
They were used to hearing
hinged gates, heaved pails of water
or grain, a woman's skirt ripping
on the garden briar. A soldier's boot
broadcast loudly on deck.
Scimitared but scavenging,
the horned species seemed lost, stripped
of their wild instincts through husbandry
and time. Yet, when the mist rolled in
and revealed the pale daughters
of the Galapagos sea, long fingers combed
through their matted hair -- separating
the fragile from the feral,
casting grim into the grace
of survival. Hand maidens who untangled
their skein of storm.
In The Moment
He sits in the soft drizzle
smoking a cigarette, red clover
blooms in the dusk.
Or maybe it seems that way
because rain has come to the desert --
everything flares in beauty.
Palm leaves and pine needles drip
with a metronomic gleam
and water spills into its own
secret patterns on the floor.
I stand in the doorway
leaning into twilight's garden
and watch the floral embers
cool to ash -- his silhouette
in this showered haze,
a bringer of pause and comfort.
The moment unhooks her corset of wind
and leaves its blue bells dangling
in still air. Her body becomes light
stretching through the trees
and beneath stream water absorbing
the story that takes shape
from whatever shadow
enters the scene, whatever scent
breathes through the ribs
of bulrush or willow, whatever spirit
webs briar and broken rock.
Disrobed and radiant, the moment
settles into her subtle craft -- waiting
for a voice, a hand and quill
to turn the greenwood's flesh
into words. A prayer, a song --
an act of creation.
of Poets and Writers
Do they pass
shining behind your life?
The last time they saw Chloe
she was holding a cock tail glass in her hand
and slipped into a cab.
The blue vehicle dissolved with her
in the bluing hours of dusk
and the chandeliered echo of street lamps
that glamorized the French boulevard.
She told her friends she was drowning
in the high life and wanted to ground herself
in the earth. Some thought she meant
an old farm house with a garden. Others surmised
a convent where nuns cultivated grapes
and raised llamas to weave wool.
They never asked just waved farewell
and assumed she would write. Post card,
letter, even a telegram considering
that a cell or tablet might violate
her rustic vows.
Relaxed on the beach, tall beverages
poised in their hands, their tan glowing
incandescent between the trees -- they look startled.
A girl rises from the surf
wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sun glasses.
Her splendid body draped in sea splash
and gliding with an Audrey Hepburn grace
(as if resurrected by Capote). A free spirit
clinging to the spritz of salt and foam,
the fluctuating rhythms of the tide. She's a stranger
but there is something similar
to what they have known of Chloe's bone
structure and stance. She doesn't turn her head
or hail them with a slender arm
but flings off a shawl that hugs her hips --
and pleases the wind.
Prone to gossip, they glance
toward each other and notice
their own shadows on the sand. An angular
flatness that soon absorbs a familiar scent.
A blend of bergamot and jasmine
that once circulated through their penthouse rooms
and villa porch.
They look up -- the young lady is gone,
evaporated from the scene. Her silk
left fluttering on the shore. Its label reads
in elegant script, light as an engraver's script --
Made in New York.