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Winter, 2003

Harold Norse

Three Poems


Classic Frieze in a Garage 

 I was walking thru the city past umber embassies
                & pine-lined palaces
                               fat palms beside balconies
                        the heat something
                                    you could really touch

                                      the kids with cunning
                                          delinquent faces
                                   after americano sailors

             -thinking of nerval tends-moi le pausilippe
                   et la mer d'Italie & living
                           on the hill posillipo under
                a gangster's dancefloor
                                                    among goldfinches

                                          on the bay of naples
                                                   in a stone cottage
                                over tufa caves in which the sea
                                crashed in winter sweet gerard
                                                 one hundred years
                        have made the desolation greater

      the tower is really down & the sun blackened
                      beyond despair the loudspeaker drowns
                               finches cliffs caves
                                       all in the hands of racketeers
         yet i have passed my time dreaming thru this
                               fantastic wreck

 walking thru incendiary alleys of crowded laundry
                               with yellow gourds in windows &
                               crumbling masonry of wars
                                     human corruption
                               so thick and hopeless that i laugh

 when suddenly i saw among the oil & greasy rags
                                & wheels & axles of a garage
                                 the carved nude figures of
                                         a classic frieze
                                 there above the dismantled
                                 parts of cars!

 perfect! & how strange! garage
                swallows sarcophagus!
 mechanic calmly spraying
                     paint on a
 observed in turn by lapith and centaur!

                            of unthinking flesh!
                                        frank thighs! eyes
                               of aphrodite!

 the myth of the mediterranean
            was in that garage
       where the brown wiry
 youths saw nothing unusual
                    at their work
     among dead heroes & gods

     but i saw hermes in the rainbow
             of the dark oil on the floor
                              reflected there
            & the wild hair of the sybil
                    as her words bubbled
 mad and drowned
                                beneath the motor's roar 

Island of Giglio
we sailed into the harbor
all the church bells rang
the main street on the crescent shore
hung iridescent silks from windows
stucco housefronts gleamed
rose, pistachio, peach
and a procession sang
behind a surpliced priest
carrying a burnished Christ
when I set foot on shore
a youth emerged from the crowd
barefoot and olive-skinned
and we climbed up rocky slopes
till dusk fell and close to the moon
at the mouth of a cave we made love
as the sea broke wild beneath the cliff 

Piccolo Paradiso

 let the age hang itself! we've had
 four marvelous days together
        no news reports only music
                & no serious discussions

 plenty of wine the best
 from the islands
         falerno & ischian
             & lacrima cristi
                                    we've made up
                               for months
                  of loneliness
                      hard work
                             of 'superiors'

              we may not live
          very well or long
 our mistakes are perhaps too great
        to bear correction
           at this midpoint
      of our lives (you're somewhat younger)
                          surely too great
 to make up for the lengths we go
            to hide them

                                     e cosi...that's
                                              how it goes 

                       but at least
                       we're ahead of the game

                   we've stolen a march
                        on the dead the herd 

 if the return to grayness
 sharp tempered weapons
 of those who force life
 into corners
        is more than we can bear
        remember this
            the wine
                the ladder
                     of stars that climb
                         vesuvius outside
                             my window
                          the waves
                            banging into smooth
                                 tufa caves 

 & the opera
               as we lay together