Photo by Kameron Kincade on Unsplash



I look over the parapet where trees hang
rags and condoms like ornaments

from the last flood, and try to kick myself
free of porno sheets wrapping round my legs

from the wind of Lungotevere traffic
a boy tries selling car-mats to and a man

offers mimosa blossoms whose scent drowns
in exhaust and alluvial dust puffing from

under my feet each step I take until I reach
Da Giggetto whose walls feature a large faded photo

signed “Elio and Enzo, 1943,” two men in uniform
atop the smoking shell of a Carro Armato,

one, large and maternal, blowing a kiss, the other,
a wizened child, squinting at the camera, nothing

behind them, unless you count the desert’s
merge of sand with sand.



You can work it for all you’re worth but it will still be
       whatever it is, calling across vastness in waves

seeming to stand still yet falling capaciously, moving
       into and out of its own shadow so it needs

no dimensions for light to enter at all angles, catch on
       anything, snag edges, flow over stone, filter

through trees with motes and minims as we try to find
       a way in since there’s no way out, here where

you are part of the score, a kind of fiction, a presence
       making music of specs and scraps that come together

like the music that made us, the dance of more than we are
       or face to face, I make it, it makes me in a room

of mirrors facing each other spilling images like a spool
       of film on the cutting-room floor, frames unraveling

like streets that run into other streets, criss-crossing
       frayed threads on a broken loom, mirrors reflecting

flakes like quail in winter when you flush them
       and they merge with the snow.

Brian Swanns most recent poetry collection is Imago (Johns Hopkins University Press), and his latest fiction is Huskanaw (MadHat Press). He teaches at Cooper Union in New York City.

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Published in the January 2020 issue: View Contents
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