We wandered your city
for five days, hemmed within
those same cobbled creases,
tucked between brownstones-
mordant lines grown soft
in the damp October night.
As the slow, sibilant traffic
parted for us with lumbering grace,
we streamed through the darkness,
faces pearlescent, strung together
in shadow, flowing into
patient, silent homes,
or hidden cafes carved
into sheer cliff sides.
Children of green steel trestles
and granite curbing, unwearied-
my vision fails before the end
of your wharves and spires
that stretch beyond
the sharpened fume of idling taxis,
and bleared lights
that sting the wet asphalt.
What is it you see among
these crumbling abutments
and slabs of crooked concrete
shelved against the silhouettes
of trees that drip and quiver against
the chain-links and brick?
What words form for you
in this dim language,
dissolved and dank beneath
these watery lights pooling?
Ammonia is a wrinkled sting,
a reedy fist of bees
that prickles kitchen counters
like a morning sun’s
rasping, saffron luster.
And the snap and tang
of bleach that fries olfaction
will gouge and grate-
a flaming tabletop glaze
that sizzles in its livid puddles.
But the lye that hisses
in malignant whispers
from the can of oven cleaner
shears the sheen from porcelain,
scours blenching lungs,
diffuses through these rooms
as if to blear, dissolve,
all dross and flaws
within this house,
like the breath of a fastidious god.
Timbre to Color
Today I have at last perfectly matched ‘v’ with “Rose Quartz” in Maerz and Paul’s Dictionary of Color.
— Vladimir Nabokov
“Azure” leaves the mouth thrumming on the tongue
like a tooth-trapped hummingbird-
the iridescence of a fly rattling in a web.
The acrid chartreuse scent of tansy belies
its yolky glow, while the strokes
and curls of its name evoke
the taut, smoky skin of an aubergine.
A matchstick flaring has a fine-grained,
saffron edge that abrades against stillness,
then abates to a lambent sigh.
And the mottled sky is steadied
by the weight of these wave-tossed cobbles,
heeled into a sea as smooth as a herring gull bone,
bleached and salt wind-burnished.