Fowl. Cauliflower. Macaroni. Pudding.
One by one, Keats sniffed each dish,
then dumped it out the window.
Just because he was dying didn’t mean
he had to eat slop. The four courses
dropped two stories from their platters
and splatted in the Piazza di Spagna
below. The italian vendor’s belly shook.
He spoke no English, Keats a lick
of Italian, but his miming was enough.
His friend, Severn, watched, stunned
when the man returned with a basket,
no extra charge, dinner this time
exquisite. Soon it would be only toast
and a single sardine. Soon, fresh milk
brought in from the country, milk the sole
substance he could swallow. Too soon,
the stern landlady, Signora Angeletti,
would order everything burned in the Piazza,
not far from the window where he’d jettisoned
the inedible food. His bed, a few borrowed books,
the chair where Severn kept vigil, sketched
his midnight face, sweat-soaked, by candlelight,
all furniture consigned to the purge:
even the wallpaper—buffeted by his last
months of breath—was scraped, its flat flowers—
he must’ve counted, then named, then cursed
them all—fed to the flames. But for now,
see the friends in their tiny Roman apartment
tucking into good food, their smiling faces,
a triumphant spark in the young poet’s eyes.
My body being the dog I call to, yell myself hoarse for, run panicky through the streets after wearing inappropriate shoes and pajamas, till I grab its leash and even then it drags me across asphalt till my knees are bloody and dammit I let go. My body being the horizon of island and bay water the sun seeps into the sun washes in gashes the sun buries its head in like a tick with Lyme. My body being a pigeon body of common color and flapsome noise and inelegant cooing as I peckle the head of a bronze colonel. My body being the menace of megaquake and subsequent ocean slap the tornado zizzing through a town just south of my body an iceburg I can see its glacial blue my body a zither I learned to play once then lost all muscle memory and music memory my body being bookends to the Greatest Hits of All the Greats furred in dust, dust covers notwithstanding, feather dusters unused in the inutility room my body being the opposite of April’s lie, my body a sheath of bone and ruin my body the precious meat of the nut in its halfshells cracked and splayed.
Release. It’s been too long since you let yourself surface
fully, snap free of seaweed to gulp air instead of salt.
Float. Remember how you don’t have gills.
Stop holding it in. Stop ticking the seconds.
No one waiting around with a basket to cart away your treasure.
Finders keepers. No one stalking you
with a stopwatch. Loosen whiptight braids.
Let go already. A chain is still a chain. A pulley
a pulley. You’ve forged and linked and hoisted
ten times the burden. Your best is enough.
You’ve worn yourself translucent, fish-thin,
barnacled, in your efforts toward permanence.
Your best is a sandcastle three meters high,
a hand-hewn canoe without stake or rope.
Pull profanities from your lips like a strand of pearls.
Haven’t they knocked against your teeth.
Were you hoping for lightning to strike.
For a statue of glass. For a vessel seaworthy as a whale.
Yes, the chest has three locks, but there’s red ribbon
around your neck, what your grandmother bequeathed—the skeleton key.
Breathe out. Yes, bull kelp tugs at your ankles,
littoral manacles. Shake them off, Lightfoot. Let the riptide
take what it will, only allow what remains to beach benignantly,
resplendent in brine, each droplet brim with rainbow.