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
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
Say the birds. Dreadful sorry,
Say the clementines—
A perfect Wedgwood Jasper sky, a few high clouds in white
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.