by James Iovino
The rain here splashes
air into nothing—
Maggie said this to me once, that
maybe when we die there is a nothing
like the black nothing before we were born.
A tiny egg of time in a vast
and tiding black ocean.
A glance out of the window tonight
leaves everything this dark:
black as black darkness in the bottom cave,
the quilted black, bobbing
in the endless seas between galaxies.
The black when we close our eyes in front of a casket.
She said her father died,
and now he was nowhere,
and not being that close to death
it struck me as kind of odd.
My grandfather died before I was born,
and I see this black in my father—
stares across the Christmas dinner table
to an empty seat, conversing over bills
with the air by the fireplace.
The time he packed me in the car
on a moist August day and cried at the gravestone,
in front of his restless son.
She asked me, How do we exist
in this black? I think
we bury our dead alive.
Divorce, September 4, 1985
Two cantaloupes lay outside,
tipped up on the patio between the deck and lawn.
A giant crescent cut out of the larger one
exposes the rich orange of melon
and as I walk closer to the bay window,
ants scurry along the lacerated fruit
like chocolate sprinkles on ice cream.
One ant is alone, confused.
He is running around the melon
like an equator. He hasn’t learned
he cannot burrow under the thick corded shell,
that this is what it’s for—
so the ant zips away
without a snip of melon, just the cordage
of the melon-skin rasp on his legs.
I swing around to the woman on the stairs—
sleek hair and shoes shrugged off,
looking plainly to the wall behind me,
over my shoulder like a suspension bridge.
As I leave out the front door,
I am no better than the smallest ant
engaging for the first time, a pulpy mass
who hides its fruit like a rind.
Planting Trees on an Easel
Touch the rough cord of the canvas.
Run fingertips across it like you would
a lover’s chin: from corner to corner,
a hand tickles doughy flesh.
The palette is freckled with fat splotches
to rinse the surface with sable hair, or knife.
Berries thick—black, red hybrids
squinched off oil branches
drying like blood on concrete.
Watch as a tree’s roots
web inside the soil of canvas.
When there are too many trees,
build a cabin of wood. If a cold lake
gleams a motionless, porcelain dish—
the ripples of water over a jetty of rocks.
Place a foot in the happy grass, comb
your toes through the scalp of grain.
When I walk to class,
after mornings of planting trees on an easel,
the grind and mash of gravel beneath my feet,
I sometimes think of anti-matter,
inter-stellar clouds, life coming down
from a hasp of space,
rinses a fallow field, lichen spreads
like the green oxidation of copper.
The lifeblood lines along the throat—
Much like a carefree stroke of brush,
a sifting of paint on the canvas.
James Iovino was educated at St. Andrews and Oxford and has master’s degrees in medieval history, international relations, and theology. He enjoys training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, traditional American and Japanese tattoo art, horology, and cutlery. His poetry has appeared in the Mankato Poetry Review. Originally from Long Island, New York, and still in possession of a considerable accent, he lives with his wife and six kids in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.