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Poems From The Prodigal

Desire And Disease Commingling

Desire and disease commingling,

commingling, the white hair and the white page

with the fear of white sight, blindness, amputation,

a recurring kidney stone, the plague of AIDS,

shaken in the mirror by that bewildered look,

the truculence, the drooping lip of a spiritual lout.

Look at it any way you like, it's an old man's book

whenever you write it, whenever it comes out,

the age in your armpits in the pleats of your crotch,

the faded perfumes of cherished conversations,

and the toilet gurgling its eclogues, resurrecting names

in its hoarse swiveling into an echo after.

This is the music of memory, water.

Becune Point

Stunned heat of noon. In shade, tan, silken cows hide in the thorned acacias. A butterfly staggers. Stamping their hooves from thirst, small horses drowse or whinny for water. On parched, ochre headlands, daggers of agave bristle in primordial defense, like a cornered monster backed up against the sea. A mongoose charges dry grass and fades through a fence faster than an afterthought.

Dust rises easily. Haze of the Harmattan, Sahara dust, memory's haze from the dried well of Africa, the headland's desert or riders in swirling burnooses, mixed with the greys of hills veiled in Impressionist light.

We inherit two worlds of associations, or references, drought that we heighten into Delacroix's North Africa, veils, daggers, lances, herds the Harmattan brought with a phantom inheritance, which the desperate seeker of a well-spring staggers in the heat in search of heroic ancestors; the other that the dry season brings is the gust of a European calendar, but it is the one love that thirsts for confirmations in the circling rings of the ground dove's cooing on stones, in the acacia's thorns and the agave's daggers, that they are all ours, the white horsemen of the Sahara, India's and Asia's plumed mongoose and crested palm tree, Benin and Pontoise.

We are history's afterthought, as the mongoose races ahead of its time; in drought we discover our shadows, our origins that range from the most disparate places, from the dugouts of Guinea to the Nile's canted dhows.

Time, that gnaws at bronze lions and dolphins

Time, that gnaws at bronze lions and dolphins

that shrivels fountains, had, exhausted him;

a cupola in Milan exhaled him like incense,

Abruzzi devoured him, Firenze spat him out,

Rome chewed his arm and flung it over her shoulder

for the rats in the catacombs; Rome took his empty eyes

from the sockets of the Colosseum. Italy ate him.

Its bats at vespers navigated her columns

with an ancient elation, a hand in San Marco’s font

aspersed him with foul canal water, then bells

tossed their heads like bulls, and their joy

rattled the campaniles, as innumerable pigeons