Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Nine Solitary Plasters of a Comedy

come i Roman per l’esercito molto,
l’anno del giubileo, su per lo ponte . . .
—Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy

The pilgrims delayed on the bridge, dream
with the cows scratching ribs against two fir trees . . .
a tablet, an old board with a fresh plaster
of ground bone, horse and rat, anniversary
of the red brass stylus making cones
of weird accents, angels
with brilliant foreheads and large ears,
Giotto asking if it was the ugly baby
who farted, Beatrice
decomposing under a June sun, haystacks
burning off on the hillside

like cantos . . . 

Dante runs a stylus
through a wet plaster of bone
the ninth hour to vespers . . . all comedy
needy of serial cartoons of slate
waxed with sun, composing in bone, a sulphur rain
without benefit of notes . . . then he’s
also dead & gone.

It was like that, winter slats
seconds apart. The cook wearing socks
on his breasts he could cut
chops from the lamb, yes salted
for legatees and popes most of them
stationed in hell with worms for curls
bawling at the turquoise soprano wired to the ceiling.

The army of the horizon speaks in Greek,
then in Latin, he cooked first
for the brothel in Florence, and then for
the army that spoke French when bargaining
for women who needn’t cook lamb.
Full centuries of it. Just like that! Shit!
Crushed cinnabar, the red mineral & more sulphur.
The very complex afterlife of a small bee box, winter slats
seconds apart . . . a small bee box and quinces on each yellow mark . . . 

The children being led through fog
in purple and green shrouds. The ghost
of a woman sitting there
so dead she seems
not to be naked. He wakes
with her hair in his mouth, a mistake
of selves . . . last night’s wine off
the shelf. The cold rain of Provence
washes her body warm like piss.
Frogs falling out of the cumulus. All the foxes
of the district with mange
like the fallen boudoir sofas of Clement.

The three mouths of Lucifer
speaking at her forehead: Greek,
of course, Latin hallucinating
French with gutturals of purple grapes. The cook
speaks Italian to the mice—necks broken
flies at the eyes and mouth.
The cook is stirring blood noodles, 3½ years to the false moon,
hot plasmas spooling off our sun
struck (one potato, two potato) on the occluded side. The jet
of platinum flame in the icy lecture hall
on a revolving cue ball. Laughter.
The gypsy elder in a Ravenna tea shop
whispering to the fat cop
he’s from 4 years in the future. Laughter. Again,

the bishop’s fresh radish plate of noodles
with boiled eels.

Too late. Dante with a sack of gold dust scolding
legatees and circumadjutants
& their women with yellow wire brushes scouring their pale backs . . . 
Dante now yelling irrevocably at the women,
“The fresh troops from Arezzo and Pisa will be slain by morning”—
the graves not dug for weeks!
The maestro now folding like the sunset
the many blankets infected with smallpox. He looks
at the arias leaping from their foreheads, their pendulous breasts
red with the work. Now even hell has its supper bell.

Many white hands like leaves reaching out of the darkness
that che il tacere è bello (her body, unsayable)
a dignity of conifers along the horizon
evil words issuing from the very few abstract men
who wear the simple wimple. Beatrice. Then. Beatrice.
The cold fog returning with the children, one shroud
almost radiant. He looks up at the cook with disgust,
“The politics is much easier than the women.”

Dante dreams the orchard ladder is slimy
with chalk and snails. The chalklime was there to poison them.
The old cook praying to Jesus to forgive him . . . 
a quick sunrise and Dante wakes with fever . . . a breeze lifting the curtains
as if beseeching him “che il tacere è bello.”

The mother counting coins in her blue apron
smiles like the sky and evaporates. The fever,
he believes, is abating. In the shadows the future pastor
St. John, pissing against the wall of Diogenes that crosses the scholar’s room,
is holding another candle to the morning. And the fucking
exile begins again . . . 


The hawk’s beak dipped in snow for the quelling
of himself alone. With the apple tree
as the first and last notary. The seal
is stem and the spiral worm
that is rain-wrapped about it. A whole stem
that follows to its female gasket.
And an electric bird cage hanging by a thread. The fat cop
interviewing with Guelf mind the irritable bowel
of Clement five, dead now
to the obvious temptations that might be a child’s drawing
on a window of early morning frost: the numb finger
a broken pencil. Macaroni boiling in the loft.
The child’s portrait of himself as hawk.

The manuscript buried in the cupboard wall,
the urine steam of a manger,
the rose is a moving diagram
of should, not always. Love
generalized across a naked shoulder,
the shoulder generalized across another’s,
baptized, in the moment, a bare leg
gently falling to the floor. Laughter.

& more laughter. The
doves rising in morning light.
The light falling to the earth
as plaster to the boards. A poet’s
brass pencil, hand shaking,

the simple collection of nails
making passion, ink and a blood-
soaked linen. Virgins with lamps
spending dumb light on them.
A silent mewing of cows and shepherds
in more simple adoration.

The sun sinking also . . .   

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