The Last Canto

By Brian Culhane

In the garrulous present
Threadbare nouns find
What raiment’s left
From forefathers

Who perhaps struck poses
But wrote of frenzy
Out of deepest urgency
Hammering voices

In no dumbfounded age.
Theirs the grace
Of unfaltering
Fealty to the word.

Yet then I picture Pound
Prematurely stilled
By his own tongue
—Tempus tacendi.

Did he ever revisit
The barbed floodlit quad
Where bareheaded he’d
Stood in all weather

Mouthing surreal Greek,
Fashioning a rhythm
Out of life’s ruin,
That life he would unspeak

Half a lifetime later
Arriving on the tarmac
Of Eisenhower Italy,
Breath caught in the throat?

I heft his burdened book
Only to let it drop
—A stoneweight dropping down
Well’s jaggy darkness

That anyhow comes back
In stonecold dialect:
Pisa! A pure echo
Purged of memory.

On my lap his poems’
Esoteric call
Has no words at all
Or just those selfsame ones

Quarried from a rock
—Red and ocher bison
Emblaze the solitude
Of an old draughtsman

Who long hours daubs
In Altamira’s shade:
Let those I love try to forgive
What I have made.

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