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Praise for the Core and Crust of Earth


ISSUE:  Winter 1994

1 Trattoria

Here no one sleeps at night.
Tables are gashed with sauce,
napkins knotted to shield
the heaving belly, and faces grimace
with language I cannot decipher.
We share the making of litter—
crumbs of warm loaves
drenched in oil and garlic,
escaping tendrils of pasta.

My mother lifts her glass again
as my father pours,
song bursts from the vagrant tenor
who strums and rolls on his heels.
Our neighbors shout
across broken shells and claws.

Bring on the fruit, fresh plates
for mottled purple of figs
that glisten in splitting clefts,
pale yellow of dewy pears
that suck on their stems
persimmons exuding sweet slime.

Praise the silver of knives
that strip the pulp of its skin.
The tongue wants its share
of this quickening forever.

Listen and feast on song and fruit
in the carnage of flickering neurons.

2 Divers

Tubes in our mouths
we push overboard into blue
confusions of water and sky.
My lungs do not trust
a world unknown
since I was a curled fish
fed through a cord. I breathe,
I spread my hands and roll.

That is my mother,
a rubbery nude whose arms and legs
weave slowly as Kali turning in place,
and my father slanting toward her,
long legs beating as one.
They wave me toward them, turn
and descend through a spectrum of fish
a lanky glide of shy squid.

They circle, hands joined, around some heap.
Wall of an ancient home
claimed when land sank steaming,
prow of a Roman barge
whose cargo of ingots slowly unloads?
My body wheels on currents
and drifts in a middle distance.

I could plunge down
past ledges where spiny fans
cling on the edge of a valley so deep
that blue would blacken like outer space
and I would know only by touch
the roil of springs
from roots of volcanoes.

I call from my mask,
and distant as the cry of my birth
I hear a voice trapped in the skull.
Always I swim to those figures—
Mother, Father—
a dance in dimishing air.

3 Aria

We trudge into ash
past smoking vents,
the clinkers of lava shaped
into hunching torsos
armless and damned.
The only green is corrosive sulphur,
and our guides are sherpas
breaking black snow.

The sun is dying beyond the sea
as if it plans never to rise,
the cone is stained with blood,
and lights of the city holding our beds
are strung in loops
that chain the bay.

How can I trust that wild-eyed man
whose knife is stuck in his belt,
and the other, mute from birth?
Will they take us up to the rim
then cut our throats, heave us over
with empty pockets to drop
to the center of earth?

When I stand on the cusp thrown out
by a molten core, stand where
defiant matter snags the sky,
the mute stares at the pit
and his brother howls a song.
My parents are etched
in a joined silhouette,
and the sky is milky with stars.

Naples, glittering necklace of lyrics,
slopes below where Christ’s tears are aging,
and sea that defines its illusive horizon,
that madman and I fling our arms wide to you
and sing our duet on the edge
of a mountain’s resurrections.

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