Stephen Massimilla


Dark morning could have come
with small white newts, avian purring
and children tumbling in the hills—
or so it's still easy to think,
though someone has been poisoning
the mourning doves, and it rains
six days out of every ten.
Your entomologist neighbors feed
on weedy red leaves from their sill—
excellent, they say—
while the Canada geese have vanished
along with the sweetest little fleet-nosed gophers
of the dirt plots in the park.
Nap hour comes sooner, takes longer.
The season's at the halfway mark.
Like a broken ring of water,
the center escapes.
You trip through puddles, the sun makes
its increasingly fewer rays change color—
at times to race, at others to gather
in lassitude, or even to explode.
The heart's weather is also a matter of incertitude.
The wind could coagulate like a mother's blood
and express in an instant every shade
of hurt that occurred to it, yielding
to your vicarious wish. These things
come up at every switch
of the lunar calendar and nobody notices.

Stephen Massimilla is a poet, critic, professor, and painter. His co-authored book, Cooking with the Muse, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. His latest book, The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat, was a selection of the Stephen F. Austin State University Press Prize contest. He has received the Bordighera Poetry Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday; the Grolier Prize for Later on Aiaia; a Van Rensselaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch; an Academy of American Poets Prize; and multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. His volume Almost a Second Thought was runner-up for the Salmon Run National Poetry Book Award, selected by X.J. Kennedy. Massimilla has recent work in AGNI, American Literary Review, Barrow Street, Bellingham Review, Chelsea, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Fiction Fix, The Literary Review, Marlboro Review, Paterson Literary Review, Provincetown Arts, The Southern Poetry Review, Tampa Review, and many other journals and anthologies. He holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University and teaches literary modernism, among other subjects, at Columbia University and the New School.

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