Royal Rhodes

Royal Rhodes

Royal Rhodes is a retired educator. His poems have appeared in: The Lyric, Ekphrastic Review, Chained Muse, Quaci Magazine, As It Ought To Be, Ekstasis, and Foreshadow Magazine, among others.



I read aloud some poems into the air
about what the very last evening will be like.
And remembered another twilight cafe
in the hot terrain south of Naples, there
amidst the clinging roses of Paestum.

We had walked in waist-high poppies,
red-orange heads leaning on us
or bending back, the way a diver
in the ancient fresco arched
his body into a silent sea.

Across the road, the sun descending
bathed the salmon-colored stone
with its last light, as far away
I stand within a gallery of glass, alone,
facing that long night that slowly comes.


Golden, god-like light,
light from circles of light
moving over the water
across the open lagoon
that fills a sea of glass.
A city loving death
rises along with the tides
that pull at hidden foundations,
labyrinth alleys,
and stones so wise, weary
from secrets fished from the deep.
At night a serene dowager,
in the rush of morning a siren,
the lilt of street dialect —
Veneziano stretto —
from a thousand open lips.
The bows of cupids on cellos
call to the laughing gods
who are begged to clothe naked
life with carnival silks.
Desire, spectre-thin,
is a body that offers pain,
as death and beauty are one.
In foundries of metal and mirrors
oily swirls reflect
a candle’s floating glare
on a moth’s dusty wings,
like the soft lustre on marble
or mosaic backed by foil.
On hot nights roses
are crushed and quarry dust
thickens the air. The Lion
has stopped roaring, with dirt
coating his gaping mouth,
inhaling the sickening wind.
On the shore, standing shirtless,
I glance back and watch
the closing eyes of stars,
while waving my hand to leave
or inviting your steps to the sea.


The calendar conjoins the feast of hearts
    with Mardi Gras
and calls us to abandon love for Lent.
But not in Venice, placed eternally between
    high-water marks,
whose litter-covered canals rise and fall
like pulsing veins in some ancient being
    collapsing in drunkenness
as we drained bottles of sweet prosecco
with revelers on stilts, and saw by torchlight
    glances from the eye-holes
in feathered masks and on embroidered veils.
    Even the saints hide
their faces, like Santa Lucia’s silver mask.
And on the ceilings, the tinted blue of heaven
    conceals the divine apparatus.
We stepped upon the isle of lepers, where
the flesh had fallen from their bones, now home
    to bookish monks.
Above us fireworks and Roman candles flared,
colored like the jeweled glass of millefleur
    on the looking-glass lagoon.
Carnival’s farewell to flesh stood out
from Casanova’s multiple seductions,
    stoked by piety.
We walked the maze of alleys, trading
liberty for prison, mindlessly
    across our bridge of sighs.
Don’t talk of love, we said, sensing loss,
as if our words played a jinxed go-between
    for the living and the dead.
What happens to happiness, if it is voiced?
It can only sound like choruses of melancholy.
    Like the first time
when we held each other, shaking, fumbling
to unzip, unbutton, tug and tear our clothes
    until we fell with gravity.
Do not talk of love, when we are love
itself, leaving little bruises kissed
    along your neck,
and dared to go to stimulated places
smooth as any cherub’s perfect skin,
    pulling us along,
separating body and the soul, and leading
us to exile from the place we were before.
    Don’t talk of love,
my Valentine. Keep quiet and just love.

Poetry in this post: © Royal Rhodes
Published with the permission of Royal Rhodes