NOT ALL SKELETONS ARE MUSEUM QUALITY

after “Malfattori Impiccati,” an anonymous full-color
reproduction of Jacques Callot’s print “La Pendaison”

 

Under a sky as hazy-blue-polluted

As the late-August air in Rome, the clouds with the frayed hems

 

Of their white skirts dipped in smoke,

The birds with their dingy wingspans;

 

From an oak tree, its trunk warped

By a hundred years and more of wars

 

And storms, its lowest, thickest limbs stripped bare so as to give

the executioner more room to

String the ropes; in a death-burlesque

 

Of marionettes, their hands tied fast before them,

The frayed hems of their white shirts enthreaded

On the wind,

 

Twenty-one men are hanging.

 

________________

 

CRUSHED BY THE SKY!

 

That would be the headline—; and every olive tree in this garden

Would weep its leaves, its silver-green-gray leaves, like a widow

weeps

 

 

Its glass when a rock sails through

It. I mean a window.

 

 

Shatter—, shatter—, say the bells

Of Santa Maria in Trastevere. When you’re lost, you’re gone

forever,

 

Say the birds. Dreadful sorry,

Say the clementines—

 

________________

 

A perfect Wedgwood Jasper sky, a few high clouds in white

relief—.

The giardinieri are cutting down one of the park’s older oaks.

 

Axe-thwack and chainsaw-

Rev. The thunk and crack

 

Of branches hitting brick and splitting. Crows shower out from the

oak’s listing crown

And black the sky

 

A moment before vanishing.

 

________________

 

 

The sun so high and full over the garden.

And so bright.

 

 

 

 

 

Jay Hopler’s first book of poetry, Green Squall, won the 2005 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His next book, The Abridged History of Rainfall, will be published by McSweeney’s in November. The recipient of numerous honors including fellowships and awards from the Great Lakes Colleges Association, the Lannan Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts & Letters/the American Academy in Rome, he teaches in the writing program at the University of South Florida.

Issue #63 October 2016
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