Kevin Craft lives in Seattle and directs the Written Arts Program at Everett Community College. For 20 years he served as a faculty director of the University of Washington’s Writers in Rome program. His books include Solar Prominence, selected by Vern Rutsala for the Gorsline Prize from Cloudbank Books (2005) and Vagrants & Accidentals, published in the Pacific Northwest Poets Series of the University of Washington Press (2017). His new collection, Traverse, is forthcoming from Lynx House Press. He also edited and published Mare Nostrum, an annual print anthology of writing inspired by Mediterranean geography and culture. He has received fellowships and awards from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, MacDowell Colony, the Bogliasco Foundation (Italy), the Camargo Foundation (France), 4Culture, The Jack Straw Cultural Center, and Artist Trust. Editor of Poetry Northwest from 2009 – 2016, he now serves Executive Editor of Poetry NW Editions.
A brisk morning it is, watching redstarts
leap into a volleyball net.
Down they swoop into dry grass fetching
insects, then back into the empty mesh
like minnows through a purse seine.
A tall wind tails me all day long.
I don’t know who it thought I was—
silhouette against these hills,
smoldering holes and scarps of lime.
Last year’s vintage twisting on the vine.
In villages a few people
occupy cafés, poring over newspapers,
their faces animated with cave diver regard.
Big clouds fill the sky with parliamentary
procedure. I am only passing through.
Everywhere scallop shells
adorn the signposts.
I must be underwater—
just as well. Walking here without you
like living in a diving bell.
– Galleria Borghese
A protolith compressed,
magma into marble on the wing.
Whirling on a fingertip,
you can hear the sling shot sing.
The armor dropped.
And the stone shot from David’s arm
passes through Goliath’s head
to land—molten, warm—
in the room adjacent, half a world away.
Some trip—trick of the sun god’s fleeting feet
behind which Daphne drops a few last
loosened leaves. In preternatural heat
these sprout up fast—proto-jungle,
orphan stories, trajectories displaced.
Now whose fable are you trotting past?
Hothouse migrants. Breathing space.
The population has been reduced
to a solitary stonechat. Ghost town,
let me sleep among your weedy ruins.
I won’t be long.
I won’t be long for this world
my grandmother would wheeze
who lived to ninety-three, her buggy
drawn by horses then by rockets.
And who lived here in the Punic quarter
counting off strokes on the oarlocks of a trireme?
Who slept in these rooms
masquerades now as shattered mosaic—
tesserae blown like dice across the floor.
What we are repeats itself
into a future form. Take a walk,
have a look. Statutory glances
measure out the city blocks, quietude
a forum above the burgeoning
sea. Mid-day sun: stones warm
to their pocked disposition.
Al fresco sheds another shade of blue.
Amphora takes two hands to lift from silting.
So long so long ago—
stonechat adept at tilting at flies.
Cubiculum Fresco in the Third Style
As if the house weren’t empty
Enough the strange animal
Blizzard trail blazer
Crossing the tundra of the wall’s framed giornata—
Forelegs digging at chimerical fog
In a blank slate shorn of point of view
Tosses five points from its towering antlers—
Red stag or reindeer rearing on hind legs—
Hide a sheen of crushed velvet brown
Snowbound or street smart almost grinning
Because perhaps alone beyond
The hunt of dogs the harm of men—
Prime mover solo pilot
Tethered to tunnel vision
Some future in hindsight floats toward us
As fire hydrant or loose cannon
Or lead kite festooned with scarlet ribbon—
Joy tearing free of its plausible leash
Only to run into emptiness breathing
Vacancy staggering into range
Poetry in this post: © Kevin Craft
Published with the permission of Kevin Craft