Breakdown

It just doesn’t work,
the sun, the streets,
scented and alive
with human mouths,
and old women
burdened with cardigans
and shopping bags full of
old rainstorms.

None of it’s working properly.
But I know that I am
the screw that came loose,
the crate of fruit that
fell from the cart and
left a stain in the street.

You see, I just can’t
go straight like the others anymore,
straight lines, straight shots,
straight loves,
because a bitter family has
entered my soul
and has pitched their tent.
They are roasting marshmallows
over my tormented and charred lung.

There are people that
live in houses happily,
and get in cars happily,
and stroll through
straight-jacket parks
with pleasant, asinine music
on their lips.

They feed cats and kiss their wives
the way they would raise a glass
of moderately priced wine to their lips,
and they converse together
with cordial eyebrows.
It is all just too strange,
like filling in potholes,
or painting over obscene words
on bathroom walls.

The broken ones never go out.
I never see the ones who lost,
the left-out, the wayward, the confused.
They’re never found
in public gardens with
their smiling, clipped roses.
The ones who tripped on
the pavement of life,
with a stubbed toe and
an enraged beard,

the jilted, the stood-up,
the ones who failed at every thing,
because their was hurt,
and unspeakable loves
that went wrong, so awfully wrong,
and skies of squeezed orange juice,
and dawns that killed
all their ambitions.
And because of all this,
not despite it,
they wear their breakdown like
a masterpiece.

It doesn’t work,
it’s all stopped ticking over.
But sometimes, I need to fail.

The Tourist

You are not a part of this
garden of rock paths
and moon viewing huts
that once thronged with the
drama of an afternoon,
and is now locked tight-shut
as a collector’s shell.

Stand here, by the papered screen,
or over there, next to the
ivy-choked lantern,
try to hear the envoys’
hushed gossip in the moss,
or the faint call of the
courtesan’s treasonous steps
over these smooth boards.

Ah, the spell is broken
by the fall of a shutter
somewhere off out of view.
But it was not only this
which locked you out forever.
For this place of long concealed dreams

once revolved around the
smallest of continents,
no bigger than a pomegranate,
and though it looked eternal,
succumbed as soon as we
came near to touch it.

The Undiscovered

Do you think high fences are enough,
or the careful grass or the perfection of paint,
and the people who water their birds,
that still fly away with a hurt song?
When the shrouded hills turn over in the night,
do you think you will then feel any closer
to the sand of other solitudes?
And at that hour when the ocean
has at last been put to sleep in the leaves,
will you then believe in the
breasts of women or the lips of men?
There are things in me, and in you,
that not even the weight of others can enter,
that desolate us and leave us with
voices of blue embers.
What outer blood could calm you now,
when there is so much always undiscovered,
and so much that you cannot translate
even to yourself?

Apple Picking

By mid-morning my hand ached
from the repetitive rhythm
of the cutting and pulling,
and the sun beat its way into my head,
and expanded like a seed of heat.
The work still hadn’t broken me in,
and I was greener than the baby shoots.

But everywhere, the others,
more seasoned than I,
worked to the rhythm of the grass
and the pollen,
and a music of wind sometimes swelled
and cooled their broad necks.
Everyone was tawny there,

and even the young women of the orchard,
loved more by the sun than the men,
looked like the reddened, beautiful girls
I have seen in pictures of the
people of the wild steppes.

At lunch time, I talked with the
old guy who works the tractor.
His voice was full of salt and dust,
and he spoke of last season’s work,
and of tea trees and pears
and his 44 years under
this corner of the sun.

If you are here long enough,
the orchard will shape your speech,
so that it rises just loud enough
above the breeze,
and there’s not much to say
beyond the hedges and the slow road,
and the hills that are already
a foreign land.

In the morning,
as I picked among the too close branches,
I thought of things beyond me,
debts, women, cities, ships and
also death.
But come afternoon, in the heat
that quells all words,
I thought of nothing,
and was simply a rustling through the trees.

The Orchard Worker

Everyday, he brings his dog
to the orchard,
and keeps to himself,
doesn’t talk to anyone else
but his best friend.
They both have a low growl
when they do talk,
like a tractor engine sputtering.
It sounds like two guard dogs
warning the rest of us
not to come too close.
They go about their day,
and I go about mine
on our opposing sides,
I with my quiet apples,
they with each other,
a conspiracy of dog and man.
And they walk about,
silently stacking hay bales,
digging fire breaks,
barriers that keep out
frost and flame,
and the burden of human speech.

The Gattamelata I (Padua)

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See, this tensed energy
balanced on its awkward podium,
how in the soaring, contorted limbs,
that bulge like bronze fortresses,
you sense the horse’s revolt
against the stirrups,

while the head, sharp and unyielding,
fiercer than any enraged cloud,
would, at the slightest
loosening of the bite,
charge to the very edge of the high cliff,
to the ocean’s hoarse, unreasonable call.

But the taut man above,
with the self-assurance of
one who would conquer,
gathers up all this bellowing rage
into his equine brow.
For he is like a pole
about which a savage light grows tame,

and seated in his saddle,
he conjures purposes for those things
still without language.

See, in the joining of these two,
the horse is welded as a planet to its star,
and becomes an infinite road,
and an empire rising
beneath the hand’s firm hold.

The Gattamelata II (Padua)

Gattamelata,_Erasmo_de_Narni_(perfil)

In his arrogance, he saddles the horse
beneath the cruelty of his reason,
and deigns to ride.
He cannot let meadows be meadows,
and places smoothed stones on them,
walls and towers,

towns which he calls beautiful,
where he hoards precious things,
vases in the shape of girls and boys,
amulets that ward off death.

And he imagines a sky with eyes,
and in its terrible gaze
grows proud and secretive all at once,
and builds bronze equestrian statues
for the sentinel clouds.
But the sky is sky, and the bronze is bronze,

while the horse burdened by the man
walks in laboured circles
for the finery of the bored crowds.