Stephen Massimilla

Specter of August

After napping, I forget what it was.
Was summer

well past baby teeth and gums, a pale checkered cob
that I held and churned in my jaw
                                                             afraid I'd lose

the shine, the salt,
the tongue? Can't tell fading corn

from the faint heat radiating
to the horizon. Maybe the Indian

summer yet to come will flame out
red-gold into dusk,
Indian corn meanwhile held
                                                  in dry storage, silk hair

straggling from bone husks, pretty
for the Day of the Dead? Did I forget,
through the glassy squeak of crickets,

the last oily call of a frog,
placental glitter of its left-
over tail? A live thing

slippery as lake weed,
with a mind to drop
through watery

light, spirit
that startled me
as a child?



In the meadow of a morning where I went walking,
In the grasses of my walking was the morning.

Striding like a gryphon in orphic air, the cold black filly swung
Her tail, turning toward me with the dawn from the bright brink

Westward through a butter meadow radiant with heat.
Blue-black, striped with shy-lights,

A Steller's jay went winging to a dripping roof to sing,
Go away, go away. Only raspier, away.


I was another, apart and moving in a valley of granite;
An instrument in wind, a hollow bone,

Asking the breeze that visited all places
Where I would find my own.

I leaned on the hardwood door, by the gray
Pavement where the heat whisper rose

The way grasses swell in a dream that loving passes
Like a dream. I thought that belonging

Was no place like being loved, but rather like a place
Of loving being: I was thinking that I thought

That I would think tall thoughts in a forest of lodgepole pine.


The Quest of Youth is Yellow

                                                             "Nature's rarest color"
                                                             —Emily Dickinson

In the poor south
before a storm, when sky turns yellow,
terribly yellow,
and the bee-home turns bright
and bees burn in,
I love the whiffs of honeysuckle,
the buzz in the mimosa.

The quest of youth is yellow,
low in the dawn
or drawn in the dark,
like a flash of that sword
the knight freed from the stone.
On a ride through the English countryside,
blinking past fields of oilseed rape,
I want to live out a day that will blaze
into yellow. Speed rips up tracks and fields
reel on, like California sand
to bicycles of lemon rind:

O peel back your golden thighs
along the yellow Squaw Valley roads!
Topaz eyes of horses stalled in grassy waves
of flame make me want to double-
cross the double yellow line.
From Santa Monica to Montpelier,
all the traffic lights switch yellow
even in the dead of winter,
but to be elsewhere:

Yellow fish and lizards, yellow crowns
of cockatiels. Leafy seahorses are yellow
in the Philippines. Never mind jaundice or wasps.
Think butterflies, banana pies, four-and-twenty
blackbirds' beaks, sweetest part
of the pineapple, but to be arbitrary:
saffron pistils, tiger's eyes.

And in the Hagia Sophia, priceless in rays
of the eggshell domes,
a small plain bowl,
most buttery of all the Sultan's treasure,
Byzantine perfection of its glaze:
yellow from the fire, phoenix in the gyre,
mixing bowl for ocher,
pastry dough, chickee-fluff, yolk.
O life, luster, halo, joy:
be the Color-Meister of my soul!