Paul Vangelisti

Paul Vangelisti is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, as well as being a noted translator from Italian. In 2015 his sonnet sequence Solitude was published in a bilingual edition by Galleria Mazzoli Editore in Modena, and a new collection of poems, Border Music, appeared in 2016 from Talisman House in Massachussetts. From 1971-1982 he was co-editor, with John McBride, of the literary magazine Invisible City and, from 1993-2002, edited Ribot, the annual report of the College of Neglected Science. Vangelisti was Founding Chair of the Graduate Writing program at Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles, and is currently a professor in that program.

 

UNFOLDING SKY

for Gianluca Muratori

 

I

A darkening sky sounds the elegance of desperation.

Elegance, the poor man’s Cockaigne, a cloud in trousers.

 

II

O my, the things we don’t say and sometimes mean to forget.

Words, just holes in the sky, breaching something like pleasure.

 

III

And what about the secret clouds, and those trees within

that drop like eyelashes without sound in a dim forest.

 

IV

And the veined like the un-veined are near the desire found

in looking almost directly at her sunny ankles.

 

V

Smoke and mirrors, one says, meaning nothing at all like smoke,

and even a mirror one neglects to clean each morning.

 

VI

It’s a bell, it’s a tower, it’s an ass, it’s a shower,

it’s a tear, it’s a feather, it’s the end of a look.

 

VII

Anybody who thinks she’s alone is right; only she

should’ve had second thoughts before opening the umbrella.

 

VIII

O the undergrowth, O the garbage trucks rolling downhill

have mercy on us. Nobody else actually will.

 

IX

V for victory, his father liked to say, spelling their name.

And at the end was left demented, crooning, forgotten.

 

X

On a bicycle built for two isn’t exactly right.

It’s more of the handle on a door shutting before he looks.

 

XI

A wheel that never stops, even if the numbers come up the same.

A desire that races the heart always to the same spot.

 

XII

A key to the sky in a hole seeks what you wish for,

and keys a hole in the sky, a present without pictures.

 

XIII

Not so much a picture but that her lips were much too close

and the big wheel stopped turning and he was able to dream.

 

XIV

He stops for a coffee watching a squirrel leap on the porch.

Holy sky, in your unending stream of light grant us peace.

 

XV

In this hole in the sky where the future comes and goes,

time feels worse than evil and has little else to say.

 

XVI

O ladder of hope, O radio in my thieving eye,

deliver me to your negligence between dazzling thighs.

 

XVII

Tick tock, tick tock, it’s an eagle, it’s a horse, or even worse

a steeple where one can’t find any of the people.

 

XVIII

Sky in the hole where day loves night and there’s no title for

the bleeding sun that’s now quiet, in spite of the crowd.

 

XIX

Here again, that hole in the sky where ghosts wriggle in

and the past, like a childhood melody, hovers until dark.

 

XX

Here there we be, the best and worst of us, pilgrims all,

that darkening sky, that brightening whole of insignificance.

 

XXI

A very different story: a longing, a vow away

from loss, from the dark back of time. A falsetto maybe.

 

XXII

It was May and the sky quivered with the thought: those eyes

that stole into this book and left nothing only a yearning.

 

XXIII

Or was it green thoughts that keyed the numbers, greeny hills

greeny rivers, carrying past ourselves to the pleasure?

 

XXIV

In the beginning was dreary and we had different names.

Kiss me thrice and don’t deny the emptiness that’s lasting.

 

 

 

 

 

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