Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SURFACES AND MASKS; 4, by CLARENCE MAJOR



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SURFACES AND MASKS; 4, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He gave the fascisti salute
Subject(s): Columbus, Christopher (1451-1506); Explorers; Fascism & Fascists; Italy; Exploring; Discovery; Discoverers; Italians


He gave the Fascisti salute
when he stepped off
the Cristoforo Colombo, 1958...
there would be, I knew --
if nobody else ever knew -- an endless
Sordello;
and poor "Eleanor" and all
the dream-dreamt Grecian faces
I could scare up,
the cries in the nightmares,
the Acaetes-announcements;
everything you can imagine --
least of all,
that worn-out, "Hang it all..."
and
and... worse! One could get hung
endlessly up in it all.
I said in my attempt to clear
my mind,
"Goodbye So-shu!"
and I was waiting,
on my way,
not even mindful of night
whisperings:
"Past we glide!"
There were those
willing to introduce me
to O.R., but she was too old,
and therefore
the conversation was likely to be
not worth the trip, but --
on the other hand,
there remained the quest
for kissing:
"Kiss me as if you entered gay
My heart at some noonday."

The gondolas always --
repeat always --
cost too much, any year.

I was either a guilty traveler
from or to
"glorious Babylon" or else
I was less wise,
less concerned
with these surface effects.

A deep echo of Disraeli,
fearful of my plight here...?
at sight of cemetery
lying there in mist, I drew
back, sharing Disraeli's fear.
Can you imagine yourself
wandering into a late-night bar
in Venice
wearing a mask -- even at Carnevale time?

We bought the papier-mache
and covered our faces
for fun, gambling

on our luck.
(The Serenissima, in these days,
would not try us for it --)
But
poor Disraeli! "I fear I have no title,"
he said,
"to admission within these walls,
except the privilege
of the season."
Only in a psychological romance!
But then you try to find a way out!
Or you wait
and listen to Countess Malbrizzi,
who asks,
"Shall I tell you
your name?"
and you know
damned well
if you let her
you are going to end up
in bed with her, ah, making love,
or worse!
And once you are with her,
close to her,
in her arms, you are obliged
to not only let her tell you
your name, but to let her melt your snow.
Mount you?
Warm you?
As the countess
she will tell you
she has the power to dream
you away,
to turn you into a ghost,
make you
part of the city, fade you.
And you will be quick
to warn her that you have never had any
"sympathy with reality."

Then there's Dickens.
"So we advanced into the ghostly city,"
and Dickens had had no idea
of what he was talking about!

The proof is that he went on:
"...a black boat..."
one of "mournful colors..."
moving
silently through the night.

(I saw them
all day long, mainly -- which proves
nothing.)

Yet something in you
has to go out
to that old boy, Dickens!
"So we advanced
into the ghostly city" -- of
death death death!
Poor Dickens!


Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org




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