Only while reading, if I’d read
my own stray notes on hunger
could I explain myself to myself,
leaning late into light by the window
and spotting in the corner
of the scene outside
the gaps where the sea-wall had collapsed.
Pitted harbor of repeated dreams—
I wanted another dozen things at once.
Seemed I’d never know what would do.
Somewhere in the midst of all the junk
down there, my glassy green star
glinted from a cut grave, a liquor crate.
The curtains now drawn over everything
I could hope to spot in the road—
closed-up lot, motel limbo, birdless cage—
I have never come across
the number of the ghost light I was given.
I dreamed I kept returning to the place
I’d never left—the years lost there, the I’s,
were gizzards, claws, beach-found pieces
threaded on a necklace that I held up to the mirror.
I woke up to the same life I’d slept through,
reflecting on what had slipped into the margins.
Goodbye greeted the pale absence of itself.
The failing of the wind almost met the wind.
My last ragman of shadow hovered
memory-thin between magnesium lamps,
stepping plashlessly into the dim dawn
like the dissolving wake of a boat,
the receding odor and sound of the shore
drowned out by the battered sea behind me.
Stephen Massimilla is a poet, scholar, professor, and painter. His multi-genre volume, Cooking with the Muse (Tupelo, 2016), won the Eric Hoffer Book Award, the National Indie Excellence Award, the Independent Author Network Book of the Year Award, and others. Previous books and awards include The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat (a Stephen F. Austin University Press Prize selection); Forty Floors from Yesterday (winner of the Bordighera/CUNY Poetry Prize); Later on Aiaia (winner of the Grolier Poetry Prize); Almost a Second Thought (runner-up for the Salmon Run National Poetry Book Award, selected by X.J. Kennedy); a study of myth in modern poetry; a Van Rensselaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch; several Pushcart Prize nominations; and other honors. He holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University and teaches literary modernism, among other subjects, at Columbia University and The New School. For more info: www.stephenmassimilla.com and www.cookingwiththemuse.com