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Poems by Grace Cavalieri

Silence, The Way It Hides The Truth

Silence, wanderer, you, with your purposeful imagery --
 Nothing inflames the past as much as you do!
How many places can you lead the mind at once --
Perception?  (Oh, now you look down) – Invention?
(Now you nod) -- So much you hold, to darkness,
then to bliss.
Look at this collection of poems -- most expressive,
don’t you think? Various patterns fused together? All
with Silence. So, how many                              
different directions do you own, replenished by words?
You surround language with sensuality as if you were alive.
You want to do us in,
your ceaseless spirit, avoiding my gaze,
taking us down the road with you.
 Silence, the mother of all muses,
always the winner, in wait for us, with your cunning,
treating me to the final word.

What Was Waiting

From miles across the sprawling ocean,
from the trance of childhood,
my father came to this country
into a stale air of daylight
and broken promise.
Surely all things new were an invasion to bear, the
space between him and others papered over with politeness.
Certainly this must have seemed a bland world of cement
compared to his remembrance of
Nightingales at dusk above the deep green hedges
beyond the orchard, the fragrance of harvest
measured against the trickery of this new world.
What could he covet here?
Perhaps all the stories he’d never tell, maybe because
they were not good enough.
But as I tinker with these handful of words
I create a kind of miracle, a page of his own, where he enters
alive again, more fulfilled than he was, finally loved,
center stage, the star of this poem I am finishing for him.

Three O'clock, 1942

Elaine’s father was a guard at the Trenton State Penitentiary.
Once in awhile, I forget how often,
she couldn’t come out to play
because it was her daddy’s turn to pull the switch,
and watch a prisoner die.
He’d stay inside feeling sick, but why the family
had to close the shades, I don’t know, or
why, even if we knocked politely, her mother
sent us away, saying “ Elaine can’t come out today.”
The rest of us little girls sat on my porch
In cool dresses. Three O’clock.
Mothers were in the kitchen setting spoons.
There were iced drinks and cookies,
powdered sugar, a confection of air;
not even fathers were coming home to break the silence.
The only sound is a boy on the tracks nearby
Who’s caught a small animal and tramps through the weeds
carrying a cardboard cage, three holes for air.
The girls ask whose turn it is to make up a story.
We visit bright imagined countries and
in this way travel beyond swinging chairs,
white railings, a summer porch.
At Three O’Clock God mutes the trees
to listen. The only sound is a thrashing –
the biting and scratching as the boy falls –
the rustling and scrambling
of a small animal breaking free.



The night they put him on a
Ventilator, I walked into the coffee table
Cutting my shin.
The day he died I walked into
The coffee table
Cutting my shin.
These will never heal.
The night after he died
I felt his hand on my neck as if
I could see through my
Closed eyes to his transparency.
When they took his tubes out
He threw his head back
Like a white horse.
Did he wonder why I didn't step in
To save him
One more time.
Last night
At midnight I felt his hand
Touching mine

Moving down the right fingers of my right hand
As if it were the last hand
On earth.
How quickly he moved away
I would have held on
How long can a person
Dying of thirst
Hold water in her mouth
Without swallowing.

Truly a Problem of Reference

      It'll be a poem,
looking at the lines that
go side by side, if there resides a
shadow inside, a form not
too hurried, a little self important seed
sleeping at the center as if it's the only
truth there is.
      One day, you'll be
sitting on the edge of the poem like
a couch, and all across the room is filled
with eternity, all the
people you miss, and more of them
than ever, and the couch is getting so
      crowded, you walk across
the rug and join them. This
moment charms the birds
as they say, out of the trees,
and then you can see the shape inside,
where poetry moves. The desk softens.
      I warm quickly to the task
Immodestly forcing happiness
from everything held captive.

GC Acknowledgment =INNISFREE


for painter Erick Jackson
A rhapsody encircles his walls
without interruption,

Fate and fortune are
in a drawer filled with light,

like a pair of gloves
illuminating the ideal room,

The wrought iron is overwrought,

A striped cushion comes to life
with an occasional song,

Good luck and prosperity are
knobs shaped like a single ball,

The closet is a black box
telling the latitude/longitude
when the bedroom
              crashes to earth,

sampling a door,
sampling a window,

The fundamental doubt of dark

blisters into

red, yellow, blue,

scribbling   testifying  signifying

lofty pleasures,

I had a tiny doll house once with little chairs,
How could a house so small hold so much  love?

How can the eye so small see so much of the world?