Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hill Behind Finn’s House, Val Verde, January

How to get around it isn’t clear.
A thicket hedged across the road,

a high curve mass
of tumbleweeds.

Wind draws their tendrils tight.
How to get around them.

To the left, uphill,
to the right, the place

we used to be, where
tumbleweeds won’t tumble.

Earth and sky and thorny combs
that card them to each other.

You’re loose from your root,
hair caught in a knot at your nape.

Touch a tumbleweed, it springs back.
Tossed upon its thickest wisp,

a length of sisal twine
worked stiff,

a fishnet glove
the air can wear.

How it blows
between you.

The wind that names
the tumbleweed, names its purpose,

calls it by the way it moves.
I didn’t know you had a cactus

now tattooed across your back.
I haven’t seen you naked in so long.

--Iris Cushing

Alexandr Blok

One snowy night I was smiled upon by Russian gods
          & found myself at dinner opposite

The Moscow scholars a married couple—he only
          the world’s authority on Pasternak

& she the final word on her beloved Alexandr Blok
          & as we talked the evening gathered 

Along the length of the white table & I could only keep
          drinking the conversation in so deeply

I felt myself reaching back into the dark century & at last
          I got up to leave in my black cashmere

Overcoat I’d found hanging on the back rack of a Venice
          thrift store & became just another shadow

About to slide wordlessly into the night & yes it’s true
          it was snowing just in upstate New York
        
Not Moscow or St. Petersburg nor in any ancient page 
          yet to anyone who saw me walking

I imagined myself as the most lyrical shadow alive

--David St. John, 1949

Accidental Blues Voice

My ex-lover received it at seventeen
skiing the steep slope at Wintergreen called

Devil’s Elbow. The early snowmelt along the Blue
Ridge had slipped the white limb of a birch

through the crust, jutted that camouflaged tip
into the center of the trail. He hit it, full speed,

flipped over his ski poles. One of them split
his vocal cords with its aluminum point. He sprawled

in the snow, his pink throat skewered like Saint
Sebastian or the raw quiver of his Greek father’s

peppered lamb kebobs. The doctors didn’t let him speak
for a year and when he finally tried his choirboy

voice had gravel in it. His tenor had a bloody
birch limb in it, had a knife in it, had a whole lower

octave clotted in it, had a wound and a wound’s
cracked whisper in it. The first time I heard him 

sing in his blues band, five years after the accident,
I told him his smoked rasp sounded

exactly like Tom Waits. Like my grandfather
sixty years since the iron lung. I couldn’t believe

a growl like that crawled up from the lips
of a former Catholic schoolboy. But as he shut off

the halogen overhead—leaving only the ultraviolet
of his bedside’s black light—he stroked my cheek,

crooned, Goodnight, Irene. His teeth and his throat’s
three-inch scar glowed a green neon.

--Anna Journey

Anthem

We were all in love
but didn’t know it.
We were all in love
continually. Bless
our little hearts,
smoking and drinking
and wrecking things.
Bless our shameless shame.
We were loud, invincible.
We were tough as rails.
We stole street signs
and knocked over bins.
Ripped the boards
off boarded-up stuff.
Slept in towers
filled with pigeon shit
and fluff. We kicked
beer bottles down
cobbled lanes.
Tires and chains.
Chains and wheels
and skin. The world
was always ending
and we the inventors
of everything.

--Melissa Stein