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Joseph Fasano

Joseph Fasano is the author of three collections of poems, Vincent (Cider Press Review, 2015), Inheritance (Cider Press Review, 2014), and Fugue for Other Hands (Cider Press Review, 2013), winner of the Cider Press Review Book Award. His honors include two Pushcart Prize nominations, the RATTLE Poetry Prize, and a finalist nomination for the Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize.

He teaches at Manhattanville College and in the graduate and undergraduate writing programs at Columbia University. He lives in New York.

By This Poet

4

The Figure

You sit at a window and listen to your father
crossing the dark grasses of the fields

toward you, a moon soaking through his shoes as he shuffles the wind
aside, the night in his hands like an empty bridle.

How long have we been this way, you ask him.
It must be ages, the wind answers. It must be the music of the wind

turning your fingers to glass, turning the furniture of childhood
to the colors of horses, turning them away.

Your father is still crossing the acres, a light on his tongue
like a small coin from an empire that has always been ruined.

Now the dark flocks are drifting through his shoulders
with an odor of lavender, an odor of gold. Now he has turned

as though to go, but only knelt down with the heavy oars
of October on his forearms, to begin the horrible rowing.

You sit in a chair in the room. The wind lies open
on your lap like the score of a life you did not measure.

You rise. You turn back to the room and repeat what you know:
The earth is not a home. The night is not an empty bridle

in the hands of a man crossing a field with a new moon
in his old wool. We abandon the dead. We abandon them.
 

Hermitage

It’s true there were times when it was too much
and I slipped off in the first light or its last hour
and drove up through the crooked way of the valley

and swam out to those ruins on an island.
Blackbirds were the only music in the spruces,
and the stars, as they faded out, offered themselves to me

like glasses of water ringing by the empty linens of the dead.
When Delilah watched the dark hair of her lover
tumble, she did not shatter. When Abraham

relented, he did not relent.
Still, I would tell you of the humbling and the waking.
I would tell you of the wild hours of surrender,

when the river stripped the cove’s stones
from the margin and the blackbirds built
their strict songs in the high

pines, when the great nests swayed the lattice
of the branches, the moon’s brute music
touching them with fire.

And you, there, stranger in the sway
of it, what would you have done
there, in the ruins, when they rose

from you, when the burning wings
ascended, when the old ghosts
shook the music from your branches and the great lie

of your one sweet life was lifted?

Elegy for a Year

Before I watched you die, I watched the dying
falter, their hearts curled and purring in them

like kitfoxes asleep
beside their shadows, their eyes pawed out by the trouble

of their hunger. I was
humbling, Lord, like the taxidermist’s

apprentice. I said
yes, and amen, like the monk brushing

the barley from the vealcalf’s
withers, the heft of it

as it leans against his cilice. 
Winter, I have watched the lost

lie down among their bodies, clarified
as the birdsong

they have hymned of.
I have heard the earth sing longer than the song.

Come, I said, come
summer, come

after: you were the bull-elk in the moonlight
of my threshold, knocking off the mosses from its antlers

before it backed away, bewildered, into foliage.
You were thin-ribbed, were hawk-

scarred, were few. 
Yes, amen, before I heard you giving up

your singing, you were something stumbling hunted
to my open door; you were thinning with the milkweed

of the river. Winter, Wintering, listen: I think of you
long gone now

through the valley, scissoring
your ancient way

through the pitch pines. Not waiting, but the great elk
in the dark door. Not ravens

where they stay, awhile, in furor,
but the lost thing backing out

among the saplings, dancing off the madness
of its antlers. Not stone, not cold

stone, but fire. The wild thing, musk-blooded, at my open
door, wakening and wakening and

wakening, migrations
in the blindness of its wild eyes,

saying Look at them, look at how they have to. 
Do something with the wildness that confounds you.