Another Summer



The Orchard


The Fisher's Tale

Gate 10


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Midnight pauses, and passes.
The bells call faintly from the roofs
and towers,
and then, slowly, one o’clock.
To wait is to breathe shallowly,
to swallow a stone, to surrender.
The others are sleeping,
my sister Americans who share by chance
this stormy romance.

The window frames an abyss.
Briefly, I mistake your knock
for a branch against the glass.
To wait and wait is a little death,
but to blame you would shame me.
Your mother was ill.

Well, your mother learned the hard way
to make use of everything.
The cut knee becomes
a lesson, the wrapping string
repairs the market bag.
She fills its net, a busty fisherman,
with heavy things: mozzarella,
blood oranges, live,
squawking chickens,
but not her son.

She can’t stretch those short pants over you again.
They would split across your long thighs,
a grown man’s pillars of lust,
that walk faster than she can run.
And still she knits the family ties,
knotting string and pasta
and sacrifice by day
(that I, in my foreign way,
unravel by night)
the weak things becoming strong,
her failing heart a strength, your guilt
a strength, her glance an arsenal.
So that's where your eyes
learned to puncture me.

Time, time,
is an endless angst distilled,
a concentrated silence charged with bitter salts.
The air between us is a prickly itch
of cancelled bets and wretchedness.
I stumble in your language;
you barely know my name.
We need more time
to pull out, one by one,
the names of things
from each other's mouth.
To love is amare,
but amare is bitter,
ciao is hello and good-bye -
tac, tac, the beads slide together
on a string of gut.

The gas flame is an intimate ring
that paints your pectorals with blue
and silhouettes the table and stove
and hard green bench
(that ridged my back last night
beneath you)
casting starless shadows,
making pits of your eyes.

This room is too small; the echoes ring
with unsaid things,
the smell of burning gas threatens
to ignite us. Let us go out.
Let's walk the night cobblestones,
each stone wearing our calluses down.

The fortress is dark against the stars.
The air is spumante, the stars
sparkle and fizz as they rise.
We are immersed in the breeze,
a continual deep breath,
a darkness flowing,
flowing beneath the trees,
beneath my fluttering ribs,
beneath my breasts that tighten
and my thin shirt that lifts and sighs
Between us.

At the length of our arms my hand
and yours knot together,
a blood-filled gyroscope,
our other arms flung out like wings,
the wide road a tightrope.
We are a strange, four-legged being,
as far apart as we can reach, and
as close as the length of our arms.
Yours a sapling, mine a vine,
always that umbilicus to the other,
the other whom we seek in a dream.
The other, from whom we wait
to hear our names.


© Li Gardiner