It is summer’s end, lurid and mutable.
The black pigs graze acorns in semi-freedom.
Perhaps my need to appear
happy at all times comes from a fear
of my true thoughts and desires.
Perhaps that is my nature.
In the market, I see each bleeding pig heart
as a small triumph of the Baroque.
Insects swarm the lemon tree,
a true cathedral. In the streets
of the Arab quarter, the skinny cat guards
its paper plate of vomit-food.
Perhaps the verbal affirmations
of love I crave are the boundaries
of an art being laid down.
I hid my hand
in the pocket of your coat. Half my face was buried
in a scarf. Birds called out and their songs were severe.
When Tallis the court composer died
his friend wrote for him an elegy for four viols
and countertenor. He wanted the voice
wistful high-pitched made effeminate
by grief. When I walked the outdoor market I saw displayed
on tables the fruits of winter
beets herbs in plastic bitter chicories
smoked cheeses in crimson rinds
and bought a Belgian endive
wrapped in black paper
so light would not touch it.
From “The Prince”
It was not
the getting there, but the place gotten to
that excited me. I have—
I had, even as a child
of four or five—a taste
for the cosmopolitan.
I was fortunate, in a way,
to have seen many cities, to have been
a guest in many houses, though travel
was—and is—most unpleasant.
As I matured, the pleasure
of someone new
was matched only by the game
of loving him back.
Loving him with the same heart
that cultivated a preference
for a particular rehearsal of solitude, mornings
at the mirror, the truest love, the love
for perfect surfaces.
As if self-love could atone
for—it is strange to articulate it to you now—the grating
shortcomings of everyone I wanted
to love in return. And now—
to be in Brussels, of all places,
The two of us kneel
on the wet steps, and an order
of mosquitoes circles
our ankles and wrists. The canal, deep under us,
flows from a river we cannot see.
It is our seventh summer.
Tomorrow, on the narrow cot in the prewar apartment on the outskirts
of town, I will open my eyes: our shirts
draped, one inside the other, over the straight back of a chair.
Rain all night in the uprooted tree.
The sound of wild rabbits
in a collapsible cage.
the Danube there reached
a record level of 42 feet,
which the authorities said
was the highest in 500 years.”