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In Matera

ISSUE:  Winter 2001
In Matera,
where the darkness
rose from the sockets
of caves
under the city,
like a town
in Pennsylvania where
the coal fires burn
miles down,
year after year,
I dreamed again
of you, so seldom
in all this time,
and not even you,
but a stranger
with news of you:
a confusing, messy tale,
a custody battle, lost jobs,
I couldn’t follow it all,
and what I could conflicted
with what I knew,
but like all dreams
it had a logic
which overrules
contradictions, as when
I see my dead father now,
in whatever improbable place
or circumstance, I wake
believing it was real, if only
to me, so through this
intermediary I felt you near,
as in another room
listening, and at one point,
in the semi-darkness,
thought it might be you,
in disguise, and wearing
glasses as you haven’t
done since high school.
Still I would have recognized
the voice, in that strange place,
enclosed like a porch
in some equatorial region,
shuttered against the heat
of the day. What were
you trying to say?
Nothing, I presume.
We are closed systems,
and nothing really
touches anything,
though much is hidden
only dreams can explain.
Waking, I tried
to find my way back,
there is a way,
almost by vibration,
but it was lost, and you
receded like a train
pulling out of a station,
though really it was me
who was leaving.
In the morning,
in a cold hotel,
my wife and son
next to me,
our beds in a row
like a ward,
we rose and went
down into the streets
stained with the dust
of mountains and caves,
to a church built
to the dead, whose
crowned and laureled
skulls were carved across
the door, and skeletons
danced on the lintel.
An old woman in black let us in.
Sometimes there is no message.
Just a presence,
saying “I am not lost.”


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