Tuesday, October 17, 2017

REPURPOSED




Old semi-colons were a drug on the market.
At the yard, we'd let the upper dot go free
(They never really work as periods. You can tell
When people use them anyway; their voices
Rise inappropriately at the end of a sentence,
Tugged upward by the dot straining to fly.)
The lower half we would repaint and then sell
As heavy gauge commas, fit for use in sentences
Where those flimsy modern ones might buckle.

Monday, October 16, 2017

WHAT THEY HAVE IN ATHENS NOW IS JUST A SPACE



One dark and almost moonless night the Agora
Made its escape, leaving an empty space behind
Since then it has led a fugitive's life,
Turning and trimming and rarely sleeping
In the same place twice. It distributes itself
For safety's sake, becoming the Agora 

Only when there is absolute need. Its stallholders
Whisper offers of drugs in
Union Square
Waiting to be artisans and merchants once more.
Its inquirers live underground, ranting in subway cars.
Their philosopher's robes stuffed in shopping bags.

Friday, October 13, 2017

ORAZIO



Fool! You've lent your angel's wings to Caravaggio?
He'll shed its feathers in half the taverns in
Rome
And, if he doesn’t use his own dice, will lose the wings
To some one-eyed sailor or a pimp from
Dubrovnik.
You will not see them ever again, Gentileschi;
Signor Merisi will clap them onto his back one day
And be off. Who knows what he'll say of us
After he's had a few drinks in Heaven?

(for those who are interested in such things, there stil exists a letter from Orazio Gentileschi to his friend Caravaggio, seeking the return of the angel's wings Caravaggio had borrowed.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

TWO WOMEN IN A SMALL TOWN



The woman on the left is trying
To see past the photographer,
Wondering who I am and why
I act as though it is my right
To approve her posture
Or her curious left ear
Peeping out from her hair
She is not hostile, hoping
I am her grown old or perhaps
Some descendant who smiles
To recognize his own ear.

The woman on the right, though,
Does not like me one bit.
Let him stare! she thinks;
Poor unborn thing! Never
Will he know what book
Lies facedown on this table:
Never will his fat fingers
Reach past me to straighten
The blurred picture of fruit
That hangs on the wall over my head.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

REST ON THE FLIGHT




Jane Morris has wandered from where Rossetti left her
Over into one of Caravaggio's paintings. There,
She has plonked the baby Jesus-- himself a refugee
From middle-stage Rubens -- on her lap and fallen asleep.
She's so tired that she takes her surroundings
For granted. Next to her, a wing brushing her shoulder,
A teen-age angel plays the violin for Joseph and a donkey;
Joseph holds the music up but the angel's gaze is inward
The donkey watches over Joseph's shoulder
Gravely attentive, following the melody.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

TEACUP



Though W. H. Auden had a teacup
Whose crack opened a lane --
Quite a narrow one, mind you --
To the land of the dead, do not
Expect this crack in this teacup
Also leads there. Most of the time
Such cracks lead to alleys
In places with names like Slurry
Or Fliednersham's Folly.
By the time you make it home
Your tea will be stone cold and,
Like as not, your replacement
Will have thrown your shoes away.

Monday, October 9, 2017

AUGUST SANDER'S PHOTOGRAPH LABELED "OFFICE WORKER"



The picture is dated 1928 so
The smiling woman is not
My mother, who was a baby
In New York and not yet qualified
To do office work in
Berlin.
An alternate version, perhaps.
Her desk is immaculate --
Another strike against her.
Right angles were never friends
To my mother. A typewriter sits
In a lowered part of the desk.
My mother typed so fast
Her fingers blurred while words
Scrambled and tumbled toward her
Trying to reach her before
She needed other ones entirely.