On September 14th, Dante’s Death Day

- 1946-

gone 700 years today
            leaving us here, in the
                      middle kingdom
                    

       Purgatory
which was Paradise once
                      but which we soiled

          and are about to
turn into hell, or
                      at least an Inferno

for homo sap sap, the
          disappearing species
                        — if it comes to that —

there’s life
          left, there will be
life left

        and right
it will move
                     on, even without us

it will rejoice in us
     gone — I can hear the
           birds celebrating

                       the trees too
                                 the air cooling
                                           the sea cooling

                       it will be the real paradise
           the one sans-sapiens,
that arrogant inter-

ference!

Altars of Light

If the light is the soul 
then soul is what's 
all around me.

It is you, 
it is around you too, 
it is you.

The darkness is inside me, 
the opaqueness of organs folded 
upon organs—

to make light in the house of
the body—
     thus to bring the
outside in,
     the impossible job.

   And the only place to become
the skin
   the border, the inbetween, where
dark meets light, where I meets
   you.

   In the house of world the 
many darknesses are surrounded 
by light.

   To see the one, we need 
the other / it cuts both ways

   light on light is blind 
   dark on dark is blind

   light through dark is not

   dark through light is movement
   dark through light becomes,
is becoming,
     to move through
light is becoming,

   is all
     we can know.

In Betweenness

is it a good thing to find
two empty pages between the day 
before yesterday & yesterday 
when trying to make room
for the blue opera afternoon 
of today a sunday like any sunday
in may?
            there is no one could tell 
or judge though my own
obsession with the in between 
should dictate the answer
& thus let me rejoice at being able 
to insert today between the
day before yesterday & yesterday 
as if it were the yeast of night 
allowed these spaces to open
(do not say holes to grow)
in the spongy tissue of this
my papery time-space discon- 
tinuum—
            leaven of earth leaven of writing 
of running writing to earth
in these in betweenesses that now 
please as much as the opera in ear 
that asks que dieu vous le rende dans
l’autre monde but the desire is to stay right 
here in this world this in between even as 
the sound changes the radio sings son 
vada o resti intanto non partirai
di qua

            exactly my feeling sheltered on these 
pages now filled and pushing up against 
yesterday

Related Poems

the gate

Lasciate ogni speranza
Voi ch'entrate

abandon all hope
ye who enter here

the inscription at the entrance to the inferno
of Dante's Divine Comedy

courage!  

behind that gate 
there is no hell

hell has been dismantled
by theologians
and deep psychologists

converted into allegory
for humanitarian and educational
reasons

courage!
behind that gate
the same thing begins again

two drunken grave-diggers
sit at the edge of a hole

they're drinking non-alcoholic beer
and munching on sausage
winking at us
under the cross 
they play soccer
with Adam's skull

the hole awaits
tomorrow's corpse
the "stiff" is on its way

courage!

here we will await 
the final judgment

water gathers in the hole
cigarette butts are floating in it

courage!

behind that gate
there will neither be history
nor goodness nor poetry

and what will there be
dear stranger?

there will be stones

stone 
upon stone
stone upon stone
and on that stone 
one more
stone

A Song on the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

I Never Wanted to Die

It’s the best part of the day, morning light sliding
down rooftops, treetops, the birds pulling themselves
up out of whatever stupor darkened their wings,
night still in their throats.

I never wanted to die. Even when those I loved
died around me, away from me, beyond me. 
My life was never in question, if for no other reason
than I wanted to wake up and see what happened next. 

And I continue to want to open like that, like the flowers
who lift their heavy heads as the hills outside the window
flare gold for a moment before they turn
on their sides and bare their creased backs.

Even the cut flowers in a jar of water lift
their soon to be dead heads and open
their eyes, even they want a few more sips,
to dwell here, in paradise, a few days longer.