after Walt Whitman
Give me the splendid sun, the trellised grape,
take back the bitter medicine of time
and give me back my solitude – the nape
of my neck longs for your hand, and I mime
your presence with my own, head bowed. No rhyme
or reason is enough to make this lack
a philosophical burden. The chime
of mass will come to soon – I need you back.
The workshop of the sea furnishes love
of every breath, precious to the swimmer,
communion with the heady sky above,
busy with intentions toward the water,
fluency in the movements of fish, their
instincts when startled, their resting places,
and most of all, an urge, to sail over
mysteries, touching just their surfaces.
I see the continual miracle
in the sea even now, the rocks and waves
in their mystical embrace, the sickle
moon conveying in the tides, secret caves
concealing eels and sleeping sharks, the graves
of sailors haunted by the songs children
sing playing on the beach. The sea salt saves
me from despair, tearful and known to men.
after Paul Celan
I dwell on the sea, standing at the stove.
What I have written grows hollow, things we’ve
said, sea-green, burn like embers in the cove.
The sea does not devour the naïve,
the sea immortalizes those who leave
the common road for the pure and deep, songs
thunder in the surf for those who believe.
The coffee sputters, bitter now and strong.
I feel that I have lost you now, evil
times have made of love pain without relief.
The world that has lost you, in due course, will
replace your long limbed bones, a yellow leaf
framing a cluster of grapes will shine, grief
will hide itself in the earth, hope of wine
remind us of sweetness in loss, belief
in rebirth console us. I draw the line.
If you are changed, and do not wish to write,
and do not think on me, but still return
from Albania’s wilderness and the sight
of war wounds scattered like wild roses, learn
to love me again, promise to try, turn
aside from unending war and look deep
into the country of your birth, and yearn
for peace, a summer of yellow pears, sweet sleep.
after Khalil Gibran
I can’t believe I allowed you to go,
that you went to war with my blessing.
Some women do not seem to feel the blow,
their loss a gift to their country that brings
neither pain nor joy. I see them giving
their prayers over to the dead without thought
of virtue, just as the myrtle breathing
its fragrance in the night gives grace, untaught.
after Rainer Maria Rilke
Soon you will leave your odyssey behind.
At war’s end you will come, much as you went,
by sea. There is no light house. You can find
me in the aura of tears that augments
startlight, the disfigured stars of lament
will light your way with every candela,
home to where a slender young palm tree bent
in the wind like a girl of Ithaca.