Poetry of Robert Fisher
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ITALIAN POEMS

Birds riding their reflections,
Others bathing in shadow
-- Is this not the nature of existence?

A cloud like a camel,
One like a zebra,
Another whipped cream
          An ice-floe
-- Gone the child’s sweetness, gone.

          II
I choose an unmarked grave.
For you: ashes mixed with your native soil.
-- On the stone wall behind the sycamores,
Mottled shadows flicker.

          III
A bee, of surprising blackness,
Wiggles into a blossom,
Like a drunk crawling into bed.
-- Will he awaken as a man watching a bee?

          IV
A rosemary bush scents the air,
Sprigs of rosemary lie across my stew
          Of wild boar.
-- Could I depart as gracefully?

          V
You told me once how here in Sardinia
The wild boar rustle in the thickets at night.
-- All that is left of you in the great silence.

          VI
A blood-red host sinks
Into its tabernacle on an island offshore,
Dragging its train of purple.
-- The mountains and I are speechless.

          VII
The cork tree is an old man
Leaning into the wind,
His umbrella turned inside out
In the mustard rain.
-- His cork sheltered Proust’s ears.

          VIII
A point of light in the empty broken hills.
Perhaps a stone house,
A table, a cane chair,
Clay pots and a blackened hearth.
A light struggles with the fog,
Where sea and sky meet.
Perhaps men each dreaming of a different continent,
Separated from the sea
By plates of iron.
-- Does anyone speculate on Earth’s tiny beacon?

          IX
Supposed to be napping,
The five-year-old me closes her eyes,
Standing on the balcony of the foster home,
And sees a kaleidoscope through eyelids like rose petals.
— Each pattern is a sister or brother hidden in the vast city.

          X
Orgosolo,
Once each syllable was aflame
With rebellion born of despair,
And shaggy men with rifles
Rubbed shoulders with painters and writers,
Splashing battles and utopias on stone houses
That floated in the mist.

Now tourists by the busload
Click their cameras at these Guernicas.
-- Orgosolo, a sailor home from the sea,
Telling his grandchildren
The how and when of each tattoo.

          XI
In a clearing ringed by holm oaks
A very literate church,
Full of kyries and mosaics,
Its red-tiled roof buoyant
On hymns and liturgy,
Looks handsome
And a little bewildered,
In search of the Balkans
And finding the Emperor remote
In his golden capital
And palace of porphyry.

In the same clearing,
A very quiet nuraghe,
Its austere stones
Choosing the elegance of silence,
Making us imagine
Its libations and sacred wells,
Its yew twigs and fires,
Its oracles from oaks,
Which men consult no more.

XII
It started with a story you told me,
About a woman who read animals’ dreams,
And you said, “In winter, when bears go into lethargy”.
This is a new slant on bears:
Bears as manic-depressives --
In the summer the mania of appetite,
The industry of hunger in the sunny nights,
Swatting salmon into their mouths,
Diving into the underbrush
To gorge on wild berries,
Their muzzles dyed purple and red,
Climbing onto the roof of my sister’s mountain home,
Exploding the hives,
Devouring honey, bees and wax,
Above the quaking inmates.
Little sleep, never still.

Then comes November,
And with it a certain ennui.
They remember their Melville:
“When it is a dreary November in my soul...”.
Their thoughts drift to Petronius,
Loosening his bandages in the bath.
The cubs, so big now, shout:
“Let’s tree a camper!
Let’s eat an Eskimo!
Let’s follow a bee to its hive!”
But the bears lie with a cloth across their eyes,
Imagining tables sprouting broad umbrellas
And tall drinks with little umbrellas,
And shuffleboard, beaches,
Watching sailboats.
Some contemplate “going into therapy”,
But never get around to it.
There’s food, but the taste is insipid,
And besides, what the point of it all?
The grave awaits.
Empty-den syndrome.
Bears then become sanyasi
(bears read a lot),
Giving up possessions, family,
Even their names,
To meditate deeply
In a hollow tree.
This new way of seeing bears
-- their struggle with lethargy --
Is a word picture
That now hangs
In the Hermitage of the English Language,
Next to those of Donne,
Shakespeare and Joyce,
--- especially Joyce,
Holding onto his hat in windy Trieste.

XIII
Empty cup, cooling teapot,
Reed mat unstained
-- How black the spaces between the stars!

 

© Robert L. Fisher 2001