For Dante, Who Traveled Far to Get Here

Once more the stars fixed beneath our feet
like diamond earrings caught in wet cement,
excessive flashes of daring light.


Coffee and cigarettes and thinking of you.
Poor you, your carved head remains
beside the slanted shack in Florence
where you never even lived,

and you’ll stare forever at Santa Croce,
at the tomb where you never even remained,
how I walked right by it, straight to Michelangelo.

All that spun, spun round you first, earth second.
Did every door appear as a doorway?
I’m thinking of you, fist against teeth.


I would call you a thinker,
had you not buried yourself
alive within your thoughts.

You built these centuries of hell,
eccentric concentric circles of sin.
It is not so beautiful today.

You built this and asked silence to speak,
demanded the voiceless to pronounce their penance.

Bones caught in the fist of a bleeding branch.
Your heart caught in the thicket of your throat.
It beats, beats, Beatrice.


I would look for my own bag of skin
in the underworld. My own slanted shape
softened in the heat, the ire
of the great giant who stands through it all
as the center of a top
spun round itself.

At fourteen I was exiled, and this
we have in common now,
who cares of the centuries.


The ride was lame, Dante.
It’s what we call a dark-ride, but yours
is so boring. Hell is only a quick dip,
a sharp turn, and one mechanical-armed specter.
The cackle is all static.

The alleys of Coney Island rustle –
I hear their furtive whispers, Dante,
is that you? Every doorway is a gaping mouth.


Prophets are, by nature, blind:
they speak like poets,
often not knowing what they say.

Last week my mother told me
how she dreamt of her own death.
Nothing violent, she said, only finishing
the life of breathing, deflating.

Of letting all collapse upon itself.


In Philadelphia, in the frigid February cold,
the street is long and wide
and leads straight to the museum.

I spied around a thicket
a statue under frost:
The Thinker.

Rodin sculpted you nude,

You are the way in, Dante.
Every door I see is a doorway.
Every threshold I cross is a chance.

All the words I read are yours.
All the burning at my feet, it’s yours.


Poor you, contemplating doom for love,
the mutation of idea into a city of pain.

I see you on the streets now, my streets:
revolving in place like a tourist,
but you’re comfortable with that.

You’re remarking at the heights
of our buildings, not spires to god
but stalks of steel

to talk to every man on earth,
and you gape like a doorway at the sight

of women with the sun at their earlobes,
the moon in their tongues,
your heart beats, beats,
as once more you see the stars.