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Last Poem of My 45th Year

Last Poem of my 45th Year

I

I thought of how a whale’s white ribs
could choke the sky’s blue neck,
massive vertebrae half-buried in sand,

and how a keel cleaves the sea
while the wind zephyrs canvas to swell
and propel the long black ship toward shore,

heaven in a blue mussel shell, smooth
as the firmament. I believe there is a place
for old men, in the arms of their loves.

Although Dante put Odysseus in the eighth circle
for deception, both Gods and men, I think,
underrate his love for Penelope.

II

Think of the beached skeleton again
and the absence it creates, a neck of sky
on which an ivory choker hangs,

its central jewels composed of vertebrae
that housed the temple of marrow,
a metaphor for a core if there is one,

something more necessary than the defenses
we erect to keep from crushing
each other in the heart or in the head.

III

A throat of clouds caught in the pincers
of a whale’s ribs recurs to me,
like a mead hall with the walls blown out.

At the end of its open tunnel I see a dull sun
stuck to the smoggy apron of the horizon.
Tomorrow Helios will drive his steeds over

the brown San Bernadinos and down
the cement-gray Los Angeles River,
but my love’s hair is silver and her eyes are green.


(previously published in Stagger and Niederngasse and appears as the last poem in my new collection, "Unexpected Light.")
Posted 12/19/09
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