“IX. PÈRE LACHAISE” – David St. John

The names that have been unnamed arise, cold & clear
as the inscriptions upon the virgin stone. There, the rubies shone
against the onyx; there, those charnel house weathers, & the love
that must emerge like love. On the other side of the world, my
best friend dressed only in small brass cymbals. They were the size
of quarters & linked by either wire or cord. He had no idea what it
meant. He knew only as he moved each movement was announced by
the most glorious sound, chimes & rattles & an iridescence in the ear –
the golden weather of himself shimmering everywhere. When they
found him later, dead, they said how pagan he’d become in his nakedness, in his glory.

– from The Auroras

“III. The Village” – David St. John

There are so many pianos still left

 

In the fields of the village

Where you insist that we continue

 

To live, so many pianos

 

Though only a few have remained faithful

To the serious chords of the wind.

 

For example, the camel-colored Steinway

 

Beneath the arbor of lavender wisteria

& drooping bougainvillea has barely

 

A dozen keys left working, their thin felt

 

Hammers long grown soggy as dawn mist,

Soft as the pillowing fog.

 

Still, you say, who cares? as you turn from me,

 

Stepping calmly onto the narrow stone terrace

Overlooking these perpetual fields—

 

Just as every young woman in this

 

Village stands each morning, every one of them,

& exactly at this moment of the day, satisfied by

 

The first ripple of light as it sketches

 

The body’s languid harmony. If I am lucky, I know

I will live forever in this ancient, lost village

 

Of pianos & a late pagan petulance.

– from The Red Leaves of Night

“The Aurora of the New Mind” – David St. John

There had been rain throughout the province

Cypress & umbrella pines in a palsy of swirling mists 

Bent against the onshore whipping winds

I had been so looking forward to your silence

What a pity it never arrived

The uniforms of arrogance had been delivered only 

That morning to the new ambassador & his stable of lovers

The epaulettes alone would have made a lesser man weep

But I know my place & I know my business

& I know my own mind so it never occured to me

To listen as you recited that litany of automatic 

miseries

Familiar to all victims of class warfare & loveless

circumstance

By which I mean of course you & your kind

But I know my place & I know my business & baby

I know my own grieving summer mind

Still I look a lot like Scott Fitzgerald tonight with 

my tall

Tumbler of meander & bourbon & mint just clacking my

ice

To the noise of the streetcar ratcheting up some

surprise

I had been so looking forward to your silence

& what a pity it never arrived

Now those alpha waves of desire light up the horizon

Just the way my thoughts all blew wild-empty as you

stood

In the doorway to leave     in the doorway to leave


Yet I know my place & I know my business & I know those

Melodies melodies & the music of my own mind

:: from The Southern Review