Trespass gentle in to thirty
who yesterday at three
flitted timid as a tern
up Atlantic rocks
to pick a vacant shell,
an idle bone, the winter wood.
At seven you commanded toads
to fly and coaxed old dogs
to dress for tea, sweet,
like Alice, springing free
and bolting resolute down
rabbit holes of fancy.
At ten you haunted rooms
to read aloud, an orange scarf
draped about thin shoulders,
pale hands touching
cool white walls; tall doors opening,
closing quietly on summer mysteries.
At twelve you fell shouting
with maple leaves, quick
to right your self,
to scoop a wealth of gold
and spin a new direction
in the autumn wind.
Learning and discarding,
your pilgrimage begun, while time
devours your seasons in a chilling rime,
steals past moments done
and, artless, lures you on to thirty-one.
On whose account the maid Camilla died. . .
Vergil, AENEID, XI
Beneath the opaque plastic umbrella
Camilla strikes a model pose:
head just turned; tangled curls falling
mutely to crash against those shoulders
lifting to meet that quick smile sculpted
to imitate a woman’s lust.
Blue eyes tell the child
above the nose-length scab, blood wound
acquired from a certain, unyielding sidewalk.
What more epic battles wait you?
What hulking new Aeneas beds his tempting Dido
and roughly dreams an empire fated
to shake your amazing, proud head
beneath that opaque, plastic umbrella?
The wet sound echoes hollow through your lungs.
Again that rasp. Again an effort of your tongue.
Do you recall, in some far corner of the brain,
a young day when all your body flexed to fetch a tennis ball,
and all the world and life was focused in that chase?
A day when leaves flew, brown and red, across your face,
and grass rose green to slow your pace?
A time when puddle, tree or iron wall
your joy and will could never stall?
A day, a moment, when your only aim
was just to seize a bounding object come all hell or rain?
Holding your head in my lap I hear
the labor of your breathing slow and thin.
I remember, and I rub your ear
to say, go now, old friend.
The slide show began:
a photo of a human skull,
daubed with hues of faded red and blue,
two ancient shells for eyes. An ancestor
found in a niche
in a wall
in a house, nine thousand years ago
Did the women come and go glancing
at the dead and murmur memory? Did men
gauge the aged parent with a cunning eye?
Did one earn this niche by character or deeds?
Paint my bone pate apple red, my cheek bones blue
and phosphorescent. Pick two shells among the many
we have found along the shores and place me squarely
near your pasta jar, there
to sightless stare into eternity,
to hear the sounds of living without ears,
to accumulate the cooking smells through a vacant nose,
to gather dust, exuding wisdom there.