Two Poems

from The Book of Life

 

Shot

 

October 29, 1971

 

Don’t be distracted by
the shot of Picasso,
the flesh sagging
its frame. No cubist,
this body aged 90:
the hands lively
because they could
still be. On the facing
page, a woman as old
as Picasso watches
the Portugal sun slip
from her grasping hands,
shadows painting craggy
walkways to eternity.
Soon, it will all be gone.
She wears black because
she knows it will be so.
Youth flees at the first
sign of trouble, which
is its charm. But this
is not the real story.
The real story can’t
begin at the end. Even
those wizened bodies
were once sweet, whole
if not wholesome, even
toothy, grinning like David
Cassidy holding his guitar
like every one in 1971
wanted to be held. Oh
David, imagine nothing
could ever be wrong
in the world, and you
might dance at the Shah’s
party, on the shores of
the Seychelles, with
anyone who never
felt as beautiful and
free as the foolish
tufts of your hair.
You were clear and
young and capable of
making a nation lose
its head. Should I be
sad, on a night like
this, that you were no
Picasso or that such
things can’t last?
Tonight it is so calm
I see before me all
that was once elusive.
I know and understand
the way longing withers
a body. Every train
passes with the same
insistence never to be
anything but young,
which is to be so
desperate to be loved,
you might do anything
for the men who promise,
in the night, they will
carve your willing flesh
into the shape you
know you deserve to be.

 

 

Total Eclipse

 

The world is ending
and all I can think of
is that song, that useless
song the unpopular girls
loved. Eighth grade,
the talent show, and
everyone wants to sing:
all the unpopular girls
who dance their pain
across the stage, hiking
up sequined tops that
refuse their awkward
bodies. My friends in
Dorset say darkness
won’t reach them,
they say they’ll drive
to Cornwall, to Land’s
End, to Wales to get
a sense of the end,
but all I think of is
that day in Montreal,
with you, on the bus.
I wasn’t even holding
your hand when a man
scowled and brushed
away the filth we carried
from the streets. Here
we are again, but the city
has changed. No one
sees nothing passing over.

 

 

 

Joseph Campana is a poet, critic, and scholar of Renaissance literature. He is the author of The Book of Faces (Graywolf, 2005), Natural Selections (2012), which received the Iowa Poetry Prize, and The Book of Life, in which these poems will appear, forthcoming from Tupelo Press. His poems appear in SlateKenyon ReviewPoetryConjunctionsColorado Review, and many other venues. He has received grants from the NEA, the HAA, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Current projects include a collection of poems entitled The Book of Life. He teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at Rice University.

 

 

Current
Share This