Cut Off the Ears of Winter

Cut off the ears of winter
they have overheard too much,
where incinerators burn,
where rubble-strewn streets
are covered in dust from the remodeling.
Again, the doe-man in mauve cashmere—
The nerve of him—in the never world
(where ashes are harvested) where
ashes rain down in glory, a jackpot
of answers. Tonight, the underwriting
of desire is an inky carbon copy.
I have already—that last time drunk
on scotch. Then all morning
a chain gang of transvestite prostitutes
litters the front yard—the Police Station
next door also on fire, burning,
burning handcuffs, the soles of shoes
not holding the earth, cars skidding
everywhere, the tire’s frame sets sparks
along the road. This is my last dollar,
last cigarette, last match.


She Speaks to Me from the Birthing Waters

My she-ghost is walking toward the Calvario again, up the curved end of Via Nuova, where evening descends in curves.

At the end of the street, she stoops to pick up some imaginary fallen thing—
a blessing, an injured bird, used stamps.

And she keeps walking toward the woodcut effigy
of the Woodcutter Jesus, his weathered arms outstretched

toward the harvest’s mechanical limbs. Several
now shake fig trees, olives trees, etc.;

and I smell that sharpened lemon smell.
Almonds too, uneaten, and strewn onto the dusty ground,

indecipherable in their tinny, resurrected language:
this Soil of Plenty, Piano di Grazia, disparaging fields.

In the burnt and stippled countryside, tractors
plow the earth, hungry for the remembered taste.

This land so close to the sea of silvered fish,
sardines in the sea grass, among cooling, stoppered bottles of wine.

Tonight she is my fastest ghost, mercury, my passion fruit,
in a perfectly struck pose.

And if she mutters to me, in her head-cocked, heavy fugitive tongue,
I will answer in a silence so forlorn, she would gladly surrender

her own lost voice. Tonight her message is written in the resistances
of our Southern Apennine village, at the limits of the mountain.

I want to write my love all over her, make up for lost time;
unwieldy arm cast, agonizing trophy case of scribbled promises.

I want to ship myself, 1972, a gnat-stained parcel, to that other country
she ran off to; her glance a mantel of violet-scented candles.

That child is electric in the indiscriminate weeds of her hips,
dandelions and chicory pour from her mouth—

balm for this child-toting specter of my sister, strange avenger, who forever
scrambles through the second-floor veranda of our house.

Beloved ghost, from this storybook’s trapdoor, I am heavy
with semolina flour and the sweet forgiving sweat of you. 

The Watch

We begin digging
at dusk, moist earth
thick with worms.

We begin digging
and continue
in spite of ourselves.

There are only men here,
walking, and I believe
in perfect submission.

Desire is good:
the primal burning
of bodies on land,

the movement of men
through foliage,
the thrashing.

It’s the movement
that stirs me, not
the sound of water,

not the birds we hear;
no cries at all,
just the snap

of branches, the rustle
of low brush.
We undress—

if we lie perfectly still,
we may float
to the Boathouse

belly-up, across the lake;
a snag of branches.
My watch is gone.

It is right to praise God;
strip leaves off branches,
lay them atop bodies, burning.

This is desire:
the primal burning
of bodies on land,

the watching from water,
the swimming
and non-swimming,

the recollecting
and repetition,
the recollecting,

the repetition.


I am entering the day: the asphalt opens up
replete with cobblestone—playing fields
instead of medieval alleyways. The elevated train’s
Beaux Arts tassels crown the station as it slinks
corkscrew-like into the earth. On the ground

next to the entrance steps, a mangled teddy bear,
ursicide, we might call it, its woolen and sandy insides
snowbanking the curb. There’s plenty of other
garbage, too: paper wrappers, glass, bottles
with their shard-edged metal tops still attached;

then the job, up the block. Longwood Avenue
in its eerie, alarm-clock light, suburban almost
until the Bruckner Expwy. snakes the landscape,
gray-black congested-road variety. Life Skills class
at the Treatment Center today, and J.’s sickness—

the call to the paramedics frightened all of us,
then his short-breathed, gurney-strapped ride.
It is almost dusk in another part of the world.
And these are the easy ending we hope for:
a cigarette break, a love letter for our lifetime.

Ice Lake

All day on the lake, the sun dismantling itself,
what to make of this darkening glittery pool, its diamond and resolute surface.
March, the gradual melting—
an old man ice fishing, his stalled truck at the lake’s edge.
How soulless and solitary the corrugated tin and makeshift wooden shacks seem,
how they flourish in winter.

Imagine how frantically the ravenous fish poke at the fishing lines,
their luminescent bodies desperate for this dissident connection,
a flour-inch layer of slush above them
on the thickly hardened ice.
Just now, the growing shadows quicken, two brightly dressed teens
stride assuredly across the shortcut of lake, toward North Hero.
The scene registers harsh light, atrophied muscles, snapping to attention.
How whole the earth seems: yielding, permeable.

As a child I believed pain was erasable. Someday, it would disappear, fall
from one sky to another, a continuous and invisible tumbling, like wind.
That’s how I believed the world might end, the way ice melts, gradually at first,
then the aggressive breakage, piece by piece pulling against one another, eventually
surrendering to the force, flowing into it, then dissipating.
The wind remembers the undulant patch of gravel behind the cinder block garage, too,
and the desolate playing fields blanketed in snow—
I repeat these things, confidently, to myself.

Sometimes on the way home from work, late at night in the subway station,
an accordion and harmonica can sound like a finely rehearsed orchestra,
the kind I imagine in a smoky European cabaret.
That’s why I am certain of almost nothing, sitting here, staring
Across the lake’s glistening surface—a closure that resists us,
this desire to blend into landscape.
How can we explain the pieces of detail, vanishing.