La Morte d'Euridice

after Niccolo dell'Abate

Itís not about the city,
we say. Itís about the city,

the wall text saysómostly,
as though some other fable

were present in this canvas,
some other strangeness.

As it is, they must be wrong,
these invisible people

who hang this language
beside so much shimmering,

beside these words of light
only barely resembling buildings:

stone and spire, arch and
bright vennel. I wonder

if this place has a word
for shadow. Such frailty

there is in the world,
and so rarely found:

this morning you told me
I have the hands of a silversmith,

and ever since then
Iíve avoided looking at them

for fear that I will see
not what you saw

but what you didnít:
an instrument plucked

by nails not of our understanding,
the bright body fleeing,

the dark body maturing.
Look: for all we know,

she doesnít even know
itís there, intent as she is

on her angel. I wonder if the city
has clocks, blind old maestros

orchestrating all the ways Iíd tell you
I miss you, even as

you stand here beside me.
Blind old maestros

waving their blind old hands.
Again you ask me

to tell the old story, wear the old lie
smooth as a pearl:

the poet charming hell, losing his bride
a second time

because loving her with just one sense
could never have been

enough. Later his head will float
down the river,

tossed there like a rotten fruit
whose flies have become

notes, bars, grief sonorous enough
to drain the world

of its very pigment.
But none of that is here,

not to Abate. There is only the city,
bright thing untroubled

by its nonexistence, bright claws
reaching for the sky

that spills over like so much satin
into our laps.

Where did this vision come from,
this visitation so like

a fever, and how could it
have lasted the twelve years

it took him to tell it? Did he see
the same city all that time,

crouching at the edge of his palette?
Did he see us standing here,

two moons in dark orbit,
locked into each otherís gravity?

Maybe they are right.
Maybe there is only the city.

Somewhere inside you, my love,
is an animal ravenous and close,

as somewhere inside her
flees the now-forgotten shepherd

is a drop of venom winding its way
toward her heartó

a drop left behind like a card
by a snake so tiny and unreal

that weíd never know the thing
was crawling there by her foot

if the title hadnít told us
to look for it.

Benjamin Morris is a native of Mississippi but currently lives in Cambridge, England, where he is a graduate student in archaeology.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761