Oh, weren’t they lucky
The ancient Greeks with their chorus
So smart at fixing up plagues, tetchy gods,
Incest, families, mums –
Here we’ve got only beggars singing
‘Got some change, please?’ –
Nothing fixed up, but guilt trips galore
And the stink of a soul so easy to shush,
So we avert our eyes, brush them aside,
While people in a wild hustle bike
To breeze past friends and foes,
Or hit pedestrians, such a blast when they nosedive –
By-standers clap and shout –
It’s when candles breathe silence and light stops still,
Hidden behind the hanging sheets that dance
Like angels against twilight
While mothers spoil the sun and get gung-ho
Over the black where they mark souls like cattle –
Mine was that’s why I always warn fire
‘Don’t burn, and leave the windows shut,
That’s hard cheese if life creeps in on the sly’,
That’s why to my watch I always smile
‘ Don’t stop ticking on the plea that time’s greedy,
Afraid not her fault nor mine if immortality
Wins the race and wolfs down mists or marshes.’
And yes I say, yes, when a sparse blue
My earth pukes in my eyes
Where racers start off great only to fade like comets,
But who cares as long as light gives me
My source of income, afternoon men
Or a funny swashbuckler –
And yes I say, yes, when afternoon madness
Never minds blue scattered over the sheets
Or my soul’s greatest friends, ghosts turned lovers,
And yes I say, yes, when afternoon madness
Never minds the uneasy green between white cups,
The cheap bluster of old crooked hags
So madly entwined with dosh ‘n’ flats
They bleed blue when slashed –
Good for me, red such a bloody eyesore
And I love gentler colours, don’t I –
What else? Good for you of course,
My darling darling, my loyal sister,
What else? Maybe my light.
By the by, God, have you ever seen my life?
It is your celebration, of course – and mine:
Nighttime, nighthawks, a soul marooned
On a desert island only sabres can slice:
Is it the word? The moon, maybe?
Be then eternity and the heavenly vaults my witnesses,
And ask them to declare why my soul crumbled to dust,
Maybe an ancient sibling rivalry with her sister death?
Remember those fights, the blazing rows, and you, God,
Looking at them as you do at crippled girls
And crushed beggars on the streets –
Who’s the blackguard, the wounded light
Afraid to give you shelter and her eyes
When the sky shouts ‘no’ and the biting anger of the grass
Shreds the deaf branches who never heard the voice
Of warring angels, and the green on sale,
Their only choice being raw light or sour shines –
Nor can you hide in a sparkling shelter
‘Cause the heat blights the scene,
The fire shrugs off your hunger –
Nor can you run to a jonquils field,
Nor to the water, what help have you got?
Alien limbs while an oblique demise takes it easy?
So, get rid of your lust for those bastard voices
And don’t you dare bug the sky:
He’s got lotsa weapons, your soul has not –
Just stay put and wait:
Maybe one day flowers will hustle life,
April will throw you a burning sky,
And your seeds, all of them, all of them,
You’ll gather to shout and rebel
‘Here comes the first season, here comes her light’ –
Meanwhile, beware of wrecked cells,
Pomegranates and crooked promises –
Ever realised anytime they pop in for dinner
They look so restless?
I know, it slips your mind, but your name is food,
A food they can’t wait to eat up
Under the shining stare of a retired cellist
Who thinks bluebells are dying to chat him up,
As they are in love and who says flowers can’t talk?
Who says mothers morph into a mortal sin
When joining their men from a lost Eden?
Some even ask for an answer they never catch,
That limbs are inseparable from rocks and stones,
From trees and leaves, and souls are even worse
Than blasting stars –
Then the polite rejections come along, like fences, like walls –
And, of course, many sheepish smiles.
By love lost or mislaid, who knows?
Last night a mantis landed out of the blue on my ankle:
Magic or eerie?
And how many ways, how many times can you say eerie?
Seven, nine, infinite, three times Leda, a swan three times?
Breezy wails of rivers, bright shouts,
Children can’t play their games on you –
Is that you, demise?
The intractable wheeze I used to hear when a child
Along with the screech, along with the howl,
Owls and winds playing around –
A secret code maybe, maybe a plea for help
When she gets closer
In the hideaway among the uncut grass
Or one to one with cobalt blue –
I know your names, sky, but won’t mention them,
I don’t feel like:
House, family, birthplaces, they remove them
As soon as the scene changes, all but winter of course –
No one seems to love him, it gets dark so early –
That’s why I love his high cheekbones,
His cobalt blue eyes when he stares at me
As anacondas do, cold worried stares,
That’s why I love his long hair,
The white harvest my hands reap –
From the little I know winter is dead,
He sneaked out,
Those female voices in the bookshop he couldn’t stand,
Nor could I:
Them girls and those glossy nails painted pink –
Such daft colour, please leave it to springy schmaltz
And its cohort of starry-eyed bimbos.
Gabriella Garofalo, was born in Foggia (Italy) in 1956, and lives in Milan. Her work appears in many literary journals and anthologies. She has published three poetry collections: Lo sguardo di Orfeo (Cesati editore, Florence 1989), L’inverno di vetro (Edizioni dell’Arco, Milan 1995), Di altre stelle polari (Stampa spa, Brunello (Va) 2003).