ROME, 18_, to Miss Fanny Brawne, never posted

Severn props me on my pony. I am a wraith, a doll.
Weightless. In waiting. Wight of no might at all.
A Roman wench lifted great eyes to me, says my friend.
I didn’t look. Fanny, your face (graven behind my eyelids) reigns
Incontrastata. The weather’s hot and damp. Is this the end?
The food’s so foul I hurled it down the Steps of Spain.
O for a lucent quince! Last night I coughed and coughed.
Yes, there was blood: grumi they called it — clots.
Too late for me to beg a curl from your bright locks.
Il dottore says I’m better. Another shameless lie.
Dear girl, you will have heard: it rhymes with die.
A nightingale sobs past all cacophony and crockery.
Death’s shadow hurtles down from somewhere far aloft.
I am alone, in love, in pain, in fear. A mockery.




She was an animal, yes, but at the same time she was an immortal goddess….
— Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Ligheia

Rising through blue and green and Tyrian drifts,
I tilt your craft and smile. A long look.
I haven’t sung one note, but, sailor, you are mine
Till the ninth wave. “After”?
I don’t know what after is.
Some night you’ll call my name and I will come
Floating from caves where my sleek sisters choir,
Sea-milk already rounding their small breasts.
There, tritons unfurl garlands of cold fire
Tangled with stars and starfish. Touch:
I shivered nightly in that northern sea
Where I was netted once, and taught to knit.
— That story’s on Dutch dishes, blue and white.
Unraveling, unrivaled I burst free,
Stitches cast off in soft epiphanies.
My captors gaped like cod, I (joyous) dived.

Sicilian summer. Scrim of shimmering heat.
Beached graceless on damp shale
I writhe to reach you, teach you inhuman love..
Taste me. My mouth is blood and brine..
Your tongue strays, questing, thick with wine.
Mortal, unshining lover, forked and shy,
Come nearer, nearest. Now sound all my deeps.
My mother is a muse who never sleeps:
One of the Nine, Calliope.
She sings men down to bone.
Ending, remember me. I will bring you home.




 for James Gandolfini

Fragments of porphyry, serpentine, and a bronze lion’s head were recovered by divers exploring Nemi’s volcanic lake. — Michelin Green Guide to Italy

We’ve loved you, feared you;
now we’re braced for mourning,
With all that that entrails.

How ya doin’?
Landfill or shark gut,
Sausage casing or stir?

Pussy, Chris, Cousin Tony,
poor sweet dumb Ade:
it always was fated.
Whatcha gonna do?

In the lakeside wood
sleepless, the king keeps watch.
A twig cracks:
drops of gold. What the fuck?
Caligula’s ships
burned up on the Hitler channel
too far north and too late.
Try the Phlegrean Fields
where Naples keeps stoking
underground fires —
blood-orange rinds and scorched coffee
choke the entrance to Hell.

Pale shades swarm near him for a taste of dark blood
Swift-handed Odysseus fends them off with his blade —

He hears stuff like that. He’s on it.
Haruspicate.  Hack open a bird, what’s it tell you?
Snatch some sharp moves from Prince Matchabelli.
Bronze tablets say they’ve been buried too long.
Dreams don’t lie but they’re cobwebbed.
Here’s a hint: True love is not human:
Give your heart to a racehorse, a bullet’s trajectory,
The steep flight of ducks.


Two for Irene Trivas


No grace in this going.
Slumped back, doped out of pain,
two nights ago we spoke.
Oh, morphine… nice….you sighed,
one last truncated breath.

It is 1948.
Good children, silent on the set,
prowling the back lot, star-struck but aware
nothing was real. We knew.
Main Street was all façade,
propped up on two-by-fours.
We knock and run away,
fleeing what wasn’t there
behind the painted door.

Stunted trees clutch at wildfire,
dazzle the darkness, frail charcoal sketch at dawn.
Night-blooming cereus spills fragrance room by room,
Secrets stay put long years beneath a stone.

Who says we’ll like everybody we meet in Heaven?
Who says we only fall in love with someone nice?
Loss and betrayal.
Seedlings rise from loam.
Move over, tendrils.
Death has brought me home.



White birches.
Snowy owl.
Enfolding shawl of flakes.
Your farewell winter, tethered to oxygen —
Vermont in mild Siberian drag.

Behind our eyelids
older beginnings play:
Sunlight. Espresso. Dogs.
I did not expect, you said, to be a hag.

Upstage, six cygnets lift
their arch of arms.
Garlands. The entr’acte. Bourrée.
And if from the proscenium’s height
a tuft of swan’s down seems to drift stage left,
frail as a breath, imperfect as all fact,
brush it away.

Regret, remorse.
I dwindle like a reptile
shedding skin.
These bright days burn me.
I hide beneath a hat
and try to sing.