Thursday, June 28, 2012

After Cumae


The Sibyl, singing out prophecies under her breath, 
inscribed them on sun-hammered oak leaves 
and laid their gold in her open mouth 
for the wind to blow away 
since no one in that place could read, 
and cast aside any syllable she sang. 

She dreamt God asked her what she wished for most. 
With her hand, she held up sand and said, 
‘Let me be a poet and live for as long 
as the number of grains I hold.”  

Those who raised her sought 
more than her silence. It grew harder
to eat or sleep. She withered down 
to nothing in their cave, no more than 
the memory of an oak leaf 
skittering across yellow grass.

They hung her whittled carapace 
in a bottle in the trees, and children 
came to poke her with sticks, screaming: 
“Sibyl, Sibyl, what do you want?” 
“I want to die,” she said.

When those who thought her already dead 
discovered she still had her voice, 
they broke her finger bones one by one 
and made a cunning cricket cage 
which they nailed to the rafters 
and forgot her again, not hearing an outcry,

forgetting too that elsewhere crickets 
are caught and kept exactly for their singing--
in cages set on pillows, they chirp through ivory bars
to comfort emperors’ concubines, 
still awake, behind theirs silken ones.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Little Cottage


The day I wed silence, the bells were stopped in the campanile,
the flut-flut of the candles were extinguished, the doves

on the red-tiled roof tucked their beaks under their wings,
even their pinfeathers held down by the light of the eclipse.

Held back, the music, but for the note of my ring as I grasped
the goblet to sip the dark wine, my lips speaking softly

the unalterable vows. The shadow of a bishop in his crozier 
and miter leaned over to clip off my hair with his golden shears.

I lifted my arms heavenward for the linen smock, the 'little cottage' 
of the chasuble which I will never abandon. The Virgin in her lunette 

shifted the Babe on her hip and leaned down to put 
the Muse's chrism on my mouth, to both bless and seal it.