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Ravenna, a poem by David Garyan

Ravenna I

In the beginning,

time destroys cities,

but death heals them again.

Like ruins of great empires,

only decay can give birth

to history—

only roots of ancient rocks

can speak the language

of once-living trees.

A novice sailor

describes the ocean

like a schoolboy in love.

Schoolboys in love

recount the waves

like sailors taking their

first voyage.

Your ship has aged

but the sails remain whiter

than ever.

Your compass has not only seen

lines change on a map—

geology itself matured

in front of your eyes.

Long ago you did

rest on the very precipice of the sea;

all of Rome was once at your feet,

but the ages have taken

all that away;

every sundial and clock,

every other human invention

of time has left you—

like fresh sailors

who’ve forgotten ports

that no longer bear riches.

You were thrown

into the arms of the past,

like a beautiful widow

who never remarried;

still, you never grieved for the future—

only the death of antiquity

made you grave.

Now the seekers of power

and wealth have let

their lust for you

die at last—

freedom, what freedom.

Looking at you,

only the best artists now

realize you were among

the most beautiful once.

Already, the silence is quiet

enough at midnight;

the chill of September air

is fertile enough for poets to grow.

You didn’t remarry

because you had no admirers—

every poet knows that’s a lie.

You could’ve borne

the fame of Venice;

you could’ve guarded

the wisdom of Rome;

you could’ve studied

in Bologna and been reborn

in Florence,

but you let no one

seduce you again,

except what passes us all.

You’re not the highest

mountain by any stretch—

simply the tallest

unclimbed peak,

until no such places exist.

Your streets are gardens

where only poets

can recognize

the plants.

Your alleys don’t follow

an architect’s precision—

the impressionist’s brushstrokes

lead them instead.

Your people don’t walk

with the honor of kings,

always raising their heads;

they glance slowly around

like philosophers,

yet still move with a purpose.

I want to fall

in love with you,

but I can’t—

you’re too old for me.

Maybe you don’t know,

but I’ve become a young monk

in an ancient monastery.

I feel the peace of dead forests,

of murdered trees cut down

at the height of youth—

only the knowledge

that I’ll become

a fleet of ships in the end

gives me some peace.

No, I won’t go to the fire.

I won’t become

the fuel of civilization.

My sins won’t keep me

from putting white sails

on my ships.

My virtue is a shipwreck

where everyone dies,

but the sunken treasure

is quickly recovered.

My vices are all things

which float on water,

so I curse the depth

and clarity of this world.

I still haven’t

entered Dante’s tomb—

certainly I'm worthy,

but I also fear my past.

My ego has burned

old books

just to collect the ashes

in bottles and throw them

into the ocean.

My foresighted vision

assured me I could throw

salt on the deep

wounds of the sea.

My pen is only the depth

in which squids are extinct.

Like vanity living

in a room full

of carnival mirrors,

I’ve written lines to call

myself a poet and I’ve

called myself a poet

just to impress people.

I’ve come here to cease

being a poet.

My heart is the English language

written from right to left.

My language is the last heartbeat

of a criminal on the run.

Ravenna, I wouldn’t want

to fall in love with you,

even if you were young enough.

I’ve become a hurricane

that only has barren fields

left to ravage.

I’ve become an ocean

that no longer thirsts

for young sailors’ lives.

I’m the sweetest forbidden fruit

trying to tempt the dead.

The grey face

of your history

has given me peace.

By looking at the wrinkles

around your eyes,

I’ve ceased searching

for the poet’s fountain

of old age and experience.

I finally understand what

it’s like to love something

without being in love with it.

Everything I write

has no meaning

and makes sense

at the same time—

it feels like life

has no purpose,

but you still choose

to rise in the morning

and watch yourself

go round the sun

once again.

Sometimes, past midnight,

I visit Piazza del Popolo

just to sit on a bench.

Like an adult who doesn’t

know what he wants,

I tell myself that I wish

to see no one,

to be alone,

to refuse the drunk

consolation of friends,

but that’s precisely when

I’m not telling the truth—

the urge to see someone

is strongest right then.

Time is also taking my youth,

but unlike you I remain a naïve sailor.

My eyes are tired feet

sick of new places.

My feet are vigilant eyes

trying to avoid familiar faces.

Still, I search for Dante on every

one of your streets.

My eyes are really two compasses

pointing in opposite directions.

I’ve forgotten the names

of every star and the shapes

of all constellations.

I know where the Supreme Poet is buried,

but I don’t know where he is.

Master, I’m afraid to ask

on what page of your book

I’ll end up in the end.

Hopefully I’ll end up in the end.

I don’t get why Plato

and Aristotle are in the beginning

and can’t go to heaven.

There’s no reason for nothing;

tell me this and I’ll be content.

No, again I’ve lied:

I don’t want understanding—

willpower, just willpower.

Give me the wisdom

to lose myself,

to destroy my maps,

to meet people without

wanting to know who they are,

or where they came from.

Don’t give me the silence

of the oldest libraries;

I just want their books.

Don’t give me the faith

of preachers and priests;

the silence of ancient

churches is holier.

I love the cobblestones

of Via Galla Placidia;

to me, they’re mosaics as well.

I never avoid this road

when walking to work—

the Basilica di San Vitale

appears from my favorite angle;

inside, under its mosaic sky,

lies the sarcophagus

of Isaac the Armenian.

I feel no peace

as I pass and witness

the antique exterior.

For a young man,

what’s there to behold,

except death and decay?

The naïve vision of youth

is perfect in its clarity;

the perfect vision of old age

is so rigid it can’t see

two steps ahead,

much less turn its head.

All I have left is my sight.

Why do I no longer feel

like an artist when I touch someone?

Why am I afraid to touch

everything I love?

Sight is the sugar

that makes jealousy sweet.

No longer do I want

to see like a poet;

take the words away

from my eyes

and put the world

in front of them again.

I didn’t arrive yesterday,

but your mosaics

are still strangers.

Is it because I have

nothing to covet here?

Does only greed

steal divine things

with its downcast glance?

No, I want to steal looking

straight at you, Ravenna—

I’m a thief who takes

without guilt,

but I’m also a thief who gives

without memory.

I want to see

neither prisons nor charities.

Show me helping hands

without fingerprints,

and take away

the faces of beggars.

No, the eyes of a poet

weren’t made for heaven;

they always find

good metaphors for theft,

and they see nothing wrong

with pride if it’s creative;

still, let my hands feel

only the purest of visions

and put them on paper.

I want to stop

looking at you like a poet,

to cease searching for Dante,

or Byron on every corner.

No longer do I want inspiration—

all I want is to be guided.

The world has become my hell.

Darkness and light is everywhere.

I’m a modern city

that will be forgotten by historians.

I’m an ancient empire

that no archaeologists can find.

The chains of freedom

have been placed on my ankles;

I must make decisions now

without guidance from Fate—

bear all debts and rewards

for each choice

that I’ve made;

yet, I’m not alone—

everyone’s world has become hell.

I’ve come to your streets

hoping to escape history

and forget the future.

Your wine is addictive

but gives me no sleep;

your church bells ring

like wine glasses at weddings—

where I’m in love with the brides.

I want neither sleep

when I’m alone,

nor love when I’m surrounded

by people.

I can’t bear the sight

of what I want,

but I want it all, especially

when there’s nothing to have.

Ravenna, I curse your empty streets

when I’m sober,

and I long to be alone

when your wine

has taken my hand.

Like an actor running

away from himself,

I don’t seek inspiration

walking your Street of Poets.

There’s too much life

in the verses of the dead,

too much patience

in the light of your mosaics.

To live, I must renounce

both death and tenacity.

Like mathematicians searching

for logic in love,

I’m just a fisherman approaching

the river of paradox with no bait.

I yearn to contradict myself

no more than three times.

1. I live to die.

2. If I don’t live then I die.

3. I must live by staring death in the face.

Every expression of yours

is the same and it’s different.

The way apples speak

equal tastes everywhere,

so your women and men

talk distinct languages,

but they all say the same thing.

Non voglio niente.

Non voglio niente.

Non voglio niente.

Dear English,

why don’t you understand

“I don’t want nothing?”

I want to live,

but I don’t want to live.

I want to leave,

but I don’t want to leave,

especially when it’s dark.

I walk next to your Candiano Canal,

smelling the piss and broken

beer bottles on warm winter nights;

these orange-cold visions

are the best sonnets

that don’t speak of love.

I’m so relieved

that I don’t have to love you;

I feel like an explorer

who’s tired of traveling

but also doesn’t miss home.

I’m a man who can’t

know what she wants.

I’m a woman who can’t

know what he wants.

My grammar is all too fucked up.

I’ve learned everything properly,

but without learning the rules.

I always make love

the subject of the sentence,

but I don’t know what love is.

I always make love

the subject of the sentence,

but I don’t know why that’s right.

I came here

to forget how English is thought

and to find your sentences

that don’t need a subject.

I’m tired of people,

of thinking and subjects.

I want to live in a language

where only verbs exist—

a world of pure action and motion.

I want to kill all

my philosophies and beliefs.

No! Kill all

my philosophies and beliefs.

Let me climb Mount Purgatory—

dissolve all my thoughts good and bad

with sweat and exhaustion.

Ravenna, you have many mountains,

even though you have none at all.

Like fortune tellers walking

counterclockwise when

predicting the past,

you contradict yourself

and you don’t.

I love your Torre Civica;

it can never compare

to the leaning tower in Pisa,

but it bows like an obscure actor

aware of his old age—

proud of himself

and his long years of privacy.

I’ve come

to your enotecas and trattorias

in search of obscurity and fame.

I’ve come searching for wine

that won’t get me drunk—

no matter how much I drink.

I’ve come to escape escape

to be moral without conscience,

and embarrassed without shame,

to escape a world of revolution

where things never change.

Who will make the first

revolution against revolution?

Who will walk into the world

that’s become dialectic hell?

Who will talk to the devil himself?

Who? Who? Who?

Alas, there’s no center in hell anymore.

The only exception lies

in the purgatory of language.

Grieve or don’t grieve

for the post-modern mortal,

but something has swallowed

the center.

The center is no longer the center.

My hell is now collapsing

from all sides.

No lever is long enough

nor fulcrum right enough

to move hell away.

I fear there isn’t enough

silence in your basilicas

nor in Dante’s tomb

to guide me—

the real reason

I’ve been afraid to go in.

You’re quieter than most

of the world’s cities,

but maybe not quiet enough.

What will you do in 2021,

when the Supreme Poet

will have died for 700 years?

How many others

have left this world

255500 days ago?

I walk near the Basilica di San Francesco,

and wonder if I’m related

to humanity or time?

Time is the tormenter;

it’s an ocean tempting

only those who can’t swim;

it’s a night that stays silent

only for those who can’t sleep;

it measures but doesn’t feel;

it calculates but doesn’t reason;

it remembers but doesn’t love;

it speaks but doesn’t teach;

it has drowned many

philosophers who

could do nothing but think.

Paradise can never have time,

yet hell still invented

the instruments to measure it.

Why do we long

for 700 years of death?

I can’t wait for history

to happen anymore.

Show me your living

Dantes, Byrons, and Wildes.

No, Ravenna, I’m not related

to Chronos and neither are your people.

We’re born from humanity.

We want to live as we die—forever.

We want to feel reason and love.

We want to feel, reason, and love.

We want the freedom

to be musicians and artists

without needing to have

more talent than anyone.

We want the freedom of wrong

notes and strange proportions.

We want art without art.

We want to be our own generation—

to eat and sleep like no one else,

to argue in churches

and pray in our homes

for some peace in the world.

We want our own chaos and insanity.

We can never be Dantes,

but we’re here and we must stay.

Only two freedoms exist—

to exist or to die

and only one choice is freedom.

Why must we be born

against our will?

Why must death take life

for it to be free?

Death is not death anymore.

The contradictions of history are history.

We want to follow our own

path with a guide.

We want our own hell

and to make sense of it.

Master, how long must

I wait by the Porta Serrata,

wondering if I should go north or south?

Why are the flames of freedom

so unmoved by my cold hands?

Why don’t you come and lead me?

Surely I’m not worthy of poetry,

but is a little salvation so trying?

I’m just a beggar

who can pay for his comfort.

All I am is a lion

who has afforded his cage.

The strength

of your history can make

the years pass sooner.

Let’s celebrate 2021 now

and may early demise save us.

I don’t believe anyone

who says otherwise;

death is the life of the poet—

like snow, artists

bloom only in winter,

or they climb mountains

searching for January.

Their words are ice sculptures in hell.

Like an unwanted child,

the poet’s birth

is never unplanned—

we’re merely the smoke

from the arsonist’s fire;

we don’t claim the innocence

of unforeseen flames.

Our lives are the accidents

committed by Fate.

Why must the colors

of not only your poets,

but also those from beyond

die in order to live?

Why does poetry flourish

in forgotten cemeteries,

but not in the liveliest piazzas

and boulevards?

Under footsteps of life,

everything can grow

in the spring,

except words.

Words are a thousand beautiful women

trying to seduce an old monk;

they’re the weeds

in the garden of sight.

No one needs words

to witness the beauty of Liguria—

let alone verse that’s beautiful.

Poetry needs the hell of winter,

where only poems can spring

from the fertile snow.

I love you because

you live in perpetual December,

and it rarely snows here.

Your streets don’t have

the voice to seduce

many July travelers,

but your trees in October

have the colors to cure loneliness.

The poets of Rome and Paris

are poets looking for attention;

the poets of Ravenna and Trento

are poets looking for poetry.

How many old scribes do you have?

Don’t give me your twenty year old scribblers—

the ones who drink at MacGowan

and write because they have

to express themselves.

Where are your bards

who don’t shoot ink

into their veins?

Where are your eulogists

who can write

in the absence of death?

Where are your poets

who don’t call themselves poets?

Dante, I place poetry

in the lowest circle of hell—

still, my life will be

twice removed from reality.

I’ve traveled endlessly

to reach the doors

of the most literate cities,

but even the sweat

of crossing great distances

couldn’t kill my anxiety

to knock and announce myself.

Ravenna, I negotiated an ocean

not knowing your language,

and I came here alone.

You put no door in front of me,

so I walked in without being invited.

Hopefully I’m now out of hell.

November 2019

Ravenna II

The city that kept you

awake for two decades

is now divorced by an ocean—

like actors who leave their kids

to become famous abroad,

it’s still hard to sleep

in a colder house,

surrounded by quiet streets.

To be a foreigner is living

with a beautiful woman

who shares all her secrets

in a language you don’t know—

begin to understand her,

and she gets suspicious,

threatening to leave.

Like leaves that forget

to change colors in autumn,

the foreigner’s life exists

in the instincts of scientists

and the theories of mothers.

People who’ve been


immigrants twice

are war heroes

in unpopular conflicts—

their letters are idioms of home,

and speak of war’s ugliness;

their service records are dialects of hate

no civilian understands.

First-generation immigrants

are soldiers who marry

wives of the enemy;

they understand soon enough

that merely learning to speak

will open culture’s headquarters,

but not the doors of its living room;

dictionaries are just quick greetings

on grey Ravenna alleys;

thesauruses are coworkers

who have nothing in common;

newspapers are graveyards

without headstones and bodies—

they bury dead

names with an alphabet

and put headlines on them.

The foreigner is an architect

who’s allowed to build houses,

but has no right to buy land;

the foreigner has many friends

who greet him without smiles

and part ways without embraces.

Like teachers who prefer

strangers in class—

like surgeons who can’t

operate on relatives,

the vendors of Ravenna keep selling

their fruits and vegetables,

sometimes with just a ciao.

Euros are always required;

only words have never

afforded anyone food,

except maybe beggars.

The way angry people

are easier to convince

than those who say nothing,

a city with too many churches

provides enough silence

to forget your own voice;

in a city with too much peace,

people quote the books

they haven’t read

and write diaries

about other people’s lives,

but never their own.

The way shipwrecked sailors

won’t reach their destination

but can still hope to survive,

foreigners must find prayers

they don’t understand

instead of asking for favors

that will never be granted.

The honeymoon of the lifelong

nomad ends when

there’s nowhere else to go,

and nothing new to see;

when journeys end,

wanderers become children

who are tired of playgrounds;

they become ghosts

who are glad to be dead.

What do travelers become

when they don’t need maps

to navigate a city anymore?

Have they stayed too long?

Have they ceased being foreign?

The new has become familiar again,

like the faces of old friends you hate,

like the memories of lovers

you wish hadn’t left,

like the smell of mother’s cooking

when you’re no longer hungry,

like the sound of routine sins

when you confess them every week,

like the touch of a spouse

when you’ve been married for fifty years.

Hell is the nicest street

you must walk to work daily.

Hell is the most beautiful woman

you can’t leave alone,

or by herself.

Hell is the best party

you must attend every day.

There’s no sense in resisting the world;

it doesn’t like chefs who cook

something you hate—

just to prove your taste wrong;

that’s philosophy’s job.

Reason is a divorced couple

that can’t be separated

because they still want

to hate each other.

Reason is a butcher who searches

for blood in a pomegranate.

Reason is an island

whose people can’t build ships.

Reason is fighting for freedom

in segregated divisions.

Reason is a drug addict

who can quit anytime,

except for right now.

No escape artists on earth

can resolve problems

they haven’t created themselves.

Perfection is the prettiest

woman in a world without mirrors—

it’s a taxi driver whose clients

have no direction in life;

it’s a banker whose friends are all poor,

an actress who must lie to her husband,

a dictator ruling the happiest country,

but Ravenna’s drivers

all want to go somewhere;

the streets are pleasant,

but they all lead to work;

the women are beautiful,

but they’re always with someone;

the actresses are bad liars

and the actors aren’t lonely enough.

The way no language can soothe

the anger of fathers—

the way no voice can hide

suspicion from mothers,

so, in Ravenna, marriages fail

like anywhere else,

and the successful ones

are never without misery.

Where do the shadows

of lonely people go

to escape the darkness

of Ravenna’s alleys?

No, they can’t run away—

the logic of every city

in the world is the same;

poor and rich streets

all lead to one end;

the levels of pollution

come from one science;

the different sorrows

all come from a single humanity;

so, too, people die in distinct ways,

but all tickets home have one price.

Biology is an autistic genius

who can’t read emotions.

Are there chemical differences

between tears of sadness and joy?

The tongue of biology says no.

Do the frequencies change

between fake laughs and real ones?

The ears of biology say no.

Yet, what are the differences

between the tears of an actor

and those of a mourner?

What’s the difference between

a manipulator’s laugh

and that of a comedian?

And if the world’s really a stage,

will there be an audience

to applaud when it ends?

Please, if someone is watching

this comedy,

have some mercy

on those who pretend—

reward those who refused

orders to kill,

and punish those who killed

when directed.

The way thieves haven’t stolen

once they regret and bring

something back,

does it matter

if we’ve forgotten the lines

we never received?

Hell is just the gift of speech

without any directions,

sight without guidance,

taste without recipes,

smell without contrasts,

touch without love.

Hell is a priest who answers

rhetorical questions of sinners.

The way death never fails

to make selfless donors

out of the greediest people,

so travelers run away

from life by accepting

the world in languages

they don’t understand.

Like doctors with identical goals

who use different medicines,

monks have the same need to escape;

they just run from life

by renouncing the world

in languages they know best.

People perceive freedom

the way courts forget

a thief’s famished body

when he’s punished for stealing.

All artists try to win

arguments against fate

by creating new

lingo for nature,

but problems translated

into your own language

are like beautiful portraits

of dying artists,

like the poetry in prayers

that will never be answered,

like today’s earthquake

that raised yesterday’s mountains,

like the wind moving ships today,

then becoming a hurricane tomorrow.

And you, Ravenna, have faith

in humanity like a divorced woman

who knows what men really want—

don’t you believe any romantics,

preachers, and travelers

coming to save you;

they carry libraries of love

with their tongues,

ideas of salvation with their hands,

and the past under their feet,

but the poet’s passion

likewise fades after

the first draft;

the preacher’s hands

are also too weak

for the world’s weight;

and the traveler’s eyes

don’t notice the holy ground

their feet are trampling.

Ravenna, you’re a Christian city,

and those who still visit you

marvel at the basilicas

that remain to this day—

mosaic gems glowing inside

the Sant’Apollinare in Classe

rival the sun’s light,

but your sinners are no closer to Christ

than people without churches,

and churches without God.

The way children become adults

after hearing too many lies,

it’s hard to recognize

which wine tastes

like Christ’s blood

and which bread

like his body.

The way adults

become philosophers

after getting the calling

to disprove God,

it’s hard to climb mountains

without the impulse to conquer them,

or the urge to leave flags on their summits.

The way birds without wings

lose hope in the wind,

so we’ve lost faith in science,

our God of gods—

creator and destroyer of all.

Astronomy, the sun god,

radiates no light or salvation;

medicine, the god of cures,

kills the body to heal it;

biology, the earth god,

destroys the planet to save it;

philosophers, our modern Fates,

speak of justice, love, and faith,

but they can’t change

the course of humanity anymore.

Like parents

who’ve raised intelligent

kids using intuition and love,

every basilica here,

down to its last mosaic,

was blessed with the best science,

and no god will rescue

what humanity has built.

Your churches have seen

their architects die

and must stand by themselves—

like paper without memories

and memories without paper,

like light without lamps

and lamps without light,

like fire without forests

and forests without fire,

like water without thirst

and thirst without water,

like wine without years

and years without wine,

like plans without calendars,

and calendars without plans,

like saints without suffering,

and suffering without saints,

like chance without math

and math without chance,

like roads without maps,

and maps without roads,

like crutches without age,

and age without crutches,

like compasses without destinations

and destinations without compasses.

What we are is simply a ship

built with God’s blessing—

slowly approaching the iceberg

He created himself.

We’re just amateur pilots

who pray before flying—

begging Him to move mountains

our eyes will not see.

Christians have become

the most talented jewelers

who only make wedding rings

for prostitutes.

Ravenna, you bear so many crosses,

but where’s your Christ?

Likewise, the world is full of scientists

who can no longer hear the science.

What cross can hold

the branches of knowledge

that built the atomic bomb?

What church can pardon

the philosophies

that justified its use?

Which genius will be crucified

for the sins of science?

Drugs are just chemicals

if you wear a white coat;

torture is only a strategy

if you wave flags of democracy;

the death penalty isn’t murder

if committed in prison;

insanity is just a mental disorder

if observed by psychiatrists;

pollution is simply emission

if it also brings progress;

invasion of privacy is never invasive

when people must be protected.

If no god exists and life

is simply biology,

then science alone

is more useless than Christ.

Science alone is more

dogmatic than Scripture.

There’s no cure for God

or nuclear energy.

Christians will run out

of Christ’s blood

the way Earth will run out of oil.

Yes, sin must drink

from the purest rivers;

it cuts the Middle East’s heart

and pumps blood from the ground—

just to prevent mechanical arthritis;

sin needs uranium to bring light

because candles aren’t

effective enough for bombs.

Like criminals who can’t be redeemed,

medicine only starts praying

for patients when all hope is lost.

We’ve arrived at the hour of night

when even light can’t kill

our desire for sleep.

Dreams are an army trapped

in a world without ideology—

the freedom to declare war exists,

but there’s no reason to do so;

in the morning, ideology wakes

the simplicity of dreams

and begins interpreting

what it has witnessed.

If there’s no reason to declare war,

then we cannot, in good conscience,

say there’s no ideology,

for the very act of stipulating

the belief that there’s no reason

to declare war ultimately constitutes

the precise definition of what,

in fact, an ideology actually is.

Additionally, the concept of dreams

themselves is subject to debate.

For example, do dreams simply

constitute visions people have at night,

or are they part of a bigger paradigm

in the psycho-historical definition of a vision—

a great idea in the minds of noble men

who, unfortunately, ended up using terror

to achieve their ultimate goals?

What is necessary and what is not necessary?

What is necessity and can necessity

be unnecessary if necessity

is necessarily necessary?

If necessity is unnecessary now,

but will become necessary later,

can we truly say that unnecessary necessity

is necessarily unnecessary all the time?

If something is really unnecessary,

does it necessarily need a definition?

What is necessity and what is it not?

Is it defined by need or normative power?

I will define normative power as the ability

to change protected reasons. More precisely,

a man has normative power if he can by an action

of his exercise normative power.

An act is the exercise of a normative power

if there is sufficient reason

for regarding it either as a protected reason

or as cancelling protected reasons

and if the reason for so regarding

it is that it is desirable to enable people

to change protected reasons

by such acts, if they wish to do so.

Logic is like a coroner who thinks

he can find the cause of genius

in Einstein’s corpse.

No, Ravenna, we can’t endure

any more monsters

that defy logic and science,

but the future will force

doctors to pray for you.

Like someone unable to sense pain,

it’s now impossible to feel

how good things will get:

There will be no poverty

and no need for wealth;

no drug abuse and no need for drugs;

no alcoholism and no need for alcohol;

no racism and no need for race;

no country and no need for identity;

no homophobia and no need for gender;

no sexual abuse and no need for sex;

no divorce and no need for marriage;

no animal abuse and no need for animals;

no school violence and no need for school;

no corruption and no need for politicians;

no insanity and no need for personality;

no religion and no need for faith;

no diseases and no need for doctors or hospitals;

no crime and no need for police;

no loneliness and no need for family;

no advertisements and no need for desire;

no borders and no need to travel;

no hunger and no need for food;

no illiteracy and no need to read;

no accidents and no need for attention;

no forgetting and no need to remember;

no problems and no need to improve;

no excess and no need for emotion or poetry;

no sins and no need to repent;

no repentance and no need for church;

no need for church and no need for God;

no need to improve and no need for more science.

Yes, science will kill

all our problems—

then kill itself.

Science is the chemotherapy

for religion, insanity, and hunger.

God, personality, and the need

to eat will all die.

The future will erase

every chance of a new monster

being born here.

Progress is an architect

who wants to build

the tallest skyscrapers

in a suicidal world.

Progress is a university

where professors never ask questions—

they only give answers.

Destroy your churches, Ravenna,

and make space for development;

kneel before the altar of science—

it will be the all-knowing God.

Who will pray first to the new deity?

Who will build the first

temple to honor it?

Who will it be, Ravenna?

Who? Who? Who?

The world couldn’t sustain

two superpowers,

and it won’t have space

for two supergods.

During the Cold War,

the USSR had nuclear weapons

and the salvation of communism;

the US had nuclear weapons

and the salvation of God.

The weapons of God

are salvation and hell;

the weapons of science

bring salvation and hell.

There’s no more God in God,

and no more science in science.

The telescope’s eyes have seen

the universe’s nakedness,

and the curse of reason

has enslaved humanity since.

Reason made Africa inferior.

Reason invented Orientalism.

Reason didn’t create uranium,

but it justified its use.

Reason caused the Armenian Genocide,

the Holocaust, and other crimes

against biology.

Reason destroyed the devils of religion,

and created mechanized evil instead.

Swords and plagues

no longer bring God

to savages everywhere;

missiles and jets now fly

all over the world,

liberating people from savages—

in the name of Uncle Sam,

his son, and the Natural American Spirit.

Yes, with the greatest science known to Christ,

and the wisest sophistry known to Socrates,

kill the Arabs in the name of God,

kill the Kurds in the name of the Father,

and kill the Persians in the name of the Son.

Ravenna, close the doors

of your basilicas;

take your crosses down.

No prayer can save you

from the monster that’s already born—

a double-headed Goliath

who speaks only the language

of science and logic,

and he lends no one

his ears—they belong only to him.

His enemies are everything

that can’t be understood.

He prays to reason

when formulas are speechless.

He denies his own wish

if it exists outside logic.

He only confesses faults

beyond his control.

He forgives only those

who make reasonable mistakes.

He pities individuals

with rational problems.

He helps people only if their need

is a theory, not a hypothesis.

He respects his neighbors

when they see the world his way.

He’s loyal in marriage

until biology instructs otherwise.

His justice is blind until

law itself undoes the blindfold.

His philosophy is objective until

more groundbreaking logic

changes the paradigm.

He never shows more compassion

than is mathematically necessary.

His inspiration is regimented

like a dictator’s army.

He enjoys killing with the passion of poets

and the precision of portrait painters.

His humility is the discovery

that fully disproves God’s existence.

He’s only patient when people

walk slowly on the road that he built.

He logically seeks peace

when others are stronger,

and wisely changes perspectives

when enemies are weak.

He’s a chameleon during regime changes

and king of the jungle when all predators are killed.

He never preaches or teaches a thing—

his work always speaks for itself.

He has no tolerance for dogma—

only facts which are true now

and will be disproven later.

He can’t stand indoctrination,

but his temples of pedagogy

are full of disciples who’d rather

learn something else.

What person can slay such a monster?

All the Davids in the world

don’t have the strength.

What beast slouches

towards Florence to be born?

What will be the New Testament of Science?

Ravenna, the bells of San Vitale

no longer provide peace;

they also have become too familiar—

like streets you can no longer

lose yourself on,

like people whose every secret

you already know,

like mourners whose sad cries

you’ve grown used to,

like children whose questions

you’ve all answered,

like cognac that’s too young for the glass,

like prayers you’ve committed to memory,

like sins you’ve committed hundreds of times,

like the unfinished dreams of insomniacs,

like compliments paid by careerists,

like love given by prostitutes.

The way oceans can exist without ships,

so a person can be without family;

the way oceans can’t live without waves,

so people can’t be without mystery.

Those who answer difficult questions

pay respect to their books

by building cemeteries to bury them.

Mortals who keep asking questions

only the gods can answer

honor their reason—

they build the grandest libraries

without books but still hope

that someone will bring

what’s needed inside.

What will philosophy do

when all the world’s problems are solved?

What will our problems look like

in a world where philosophy is dead?

1. All men are mortal.

2. Socrates is a man.

3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This means keep your doors

open for now, Ravenna,

but when science disproves this logic,

no one can die on the cross anymore.

Your churches will be looted

by immortal hands the way

Christians brought down the Greek temples.

Accept your fate, you splendid city

of mosaics, cobblestone streets, and Dante.

The Supreme God is a dictator

who killed rival deities

to consolidate power

and rule humanity alone.

Now, science has come

with its pantheon

of gods to reclaim Olympus,

but science is weak as well;

it couldn’t survive

the temptation of nuclear power.

The devil got his way in Japan,

showing the world that it

lives on energy and matter alone—

always testing its Creator, the universe;

in exchange, Satan has given science

all the world’s kingdoms,

but is there another place—somewhere beyond—

where the suns of the cosmos

resisted this temptation?

What do their physics look like?

How believable are their gods?

Do they need war to bring peace?

Do they need crime to bring justice?

Do they need nations to have cultures?

Do they need temples to have gods?

My question is only this: Are they like us?

Do they need nuclear weapons,

or only nuclear energy?

Are they smart enough

for communism without violence,

or capitalism without greed?

Like animals separated in zoos,

do they need borders and passports

to become civilized?

Do they have locks or only doors?

Do they have political maps

or only geography?

Do they have homelessness

or only homes?

Are they self-conscious

or do they only have mirrors?

Is their world polluted

or do they just try to save it?

Are they racists

or do they only prefer

to be with their own?

Do they lie or simply try

not to hurt others?

Do they hurt each other

or only regret things?

Are they human or merely robots?

Tell me, Ravenna: What’s humanity?

Why does it exist

like the most poisonous plant

holding the key to a miracle drug?

Why does humanity look like

the most hideous leper

who somehow cured cancer?

What explosion started our universe?

What earthquake began our geography?

What sin brought Christ to us?

What science will kill Christ and sin?

What earthquake will bury our buildings?

What explosion will finish humanity?

When God created hurricanes,

He gave us the mind of palm trees

so we could dance in a storm—

instead, our reason invented the saw

to destroy what the wind can’t.

Ravenna, only the hands of religion

and science have stripped

the white limestone

from the pyramids in Egypt;

those same hands toppled

the Parthenon’s marbles

and reduced churches to rubble.

No, we’re no longer doctors

who want to heal everyone;

we’re the doctors in a war

who only care about our own.

Our legacy is an engineer

who builds impressive bridges

for himself and destroys

the great work of his rivals.

No, the churches of enemies

don’t belong to Christ;

yes, the rockets of our allies

are blessed by God.

If humanity can adopt

other people’s children,

then it should accept

other people’s culture.

If we lose architectural fertility

will we keep destroying?

Like magicians whose secrets

have all been discovered,

faith has taken its last bow

in an empty theater—

all it can do now is walk the streets

like a prostitute who slept

with every man’s eyes.

What hell will bring the last tomorrow

that the last today can pray for?

The future brings hope

like a million asteroids

that are all far away,

but still headed for earth;

it brings hope like a peace treaty

that’s concluded a war,

but made no peace between enemies;

it brings hope like a Bible

in a Las Vegas hotel room;

it brings hope like a prison

whose library lends only calendars,

and the inmates only make clocks;

it brings hope like a doctor

who got sick with the illness

he studied and now cares

about people,

instead of their money.

Hope is a house from

which fate is evicted.

Hungry ones hope to find

extra food for tomorrow;

those who have enough

hope for some flavor;

those with abundant spices

hope for some company;

those who have friends

hope for some loyalty;

those who are loved

hope for promotions;

those who have money

are hungry for more;

those who get rich

shed normal tastes;

those who eat only

Gold Leaf Bread

don’t have much company;

those who are alone

can’t bear the idea of tomorrow.

Ravenna, tell the wealthy

where your riches are now.

Tell them that your churches

and palaces perish as well—

that one day their hands

won’t have the strength

to hold a simple cross.

February 2020

Ravenna III

Let no hope

enter the world

that throws sinners

inside an abyss of flames

created just to punish mankind;

idealism will rebel against Paradise

and fall to the sphere of common sense.

Dante, you’ve seen all the heavens

and described them to me

but I can’t feel calm

until there’s no

gate to hell.

Even so, I don’t need churches

to open their doors,

renaissances to show me humanity,

and enlightenments to restore

the Age of Illumination—

to fashion another perfect world

a second Adam will tarnish.

My foresight is a birth

certificate without a date:

Today, I can’t live

for tomorrow’s heaven.

My reflections are drivers

who don’t check

their rearview mirrors:

Today I can’t live

for tomorrow’s heaven.

Like turning pages in a diary

you’re never able to start,

or blinking in the dark—

like falling from heights

not high enough for death,

or eyeing strangers

in small towns,

the past is the present,

the present is the future,

and the future is an oracle

everyone fears but no one believes.

No, Apollo, I won’t call on you

to help me find the ground—

hell is what I’m after.

My peaks are always fatal

and my cities rest on doubt;

my nights persist like endless caves

where I don’t cause the echoes.

Apollo, I must renounce your music,

poetry, and prophecies.

Gravity has convinced me

that even the righteous fall

when they fall;

geometry taught me

that I can’t square a circle

in the highest circle of heaven.

I call Dionysus for this final task

and everyone he possessed.

It’s time for the rational

derangement of all senses;

now’s the time to cease

being a poet—take off

that cursed laurel wreath,

and truly locate the unknown.

Like the deadliest diseases

nurture the greatest cures,

like the worst criminals

raise committed detectives,

like the unholiest sins

bring the biggest salvation,

so the poet descends into madness,

attempting to carry the brightest light back.

Arthur, help me make the streets

of Ravenna go somewhere else.

Like a drunk who’s seen

his entire city sober,

I have no more philosophy left.

I can’t think and therefore I can’t be.

Like you, I believe I’m in hell,

but am I really there?

Tell me: Who’s my I?

Reason is a genius

studying his face

in a world without

mirrors or bodies of water.

Reason is a refugee

running away from life

by moving to a city

where life exists.

Like boats approaching

unsettled islands,

we’ve arrived with nowhere to go.

The only thing we own

is our religion and biology—

old churches full of sightseers

and drugs that pray for DNA.

The further we walk Ravenna in circles,

the more helpful madness becomes.

Arthur, do you see the people

with dead faces?

They walk Piazza Kennedy

full of thoughts no sculptor

can shape in time;

their downcast eyes are paintings

no one wants to see;

their smiles are invitations

made out of necessity.

What’s it all for?

Opportunities wasted

like thirst on the Dead Sea;

bets lost like lovers

in arranged marriages;

hope squandered like rich men

beset by ravenous friends.

Arthur, I’m scared life

has a meaning—

even more daunting

is that my life could make sense.

Choices whisper like winds

blowing in opposite circles.

Fate is reaching out

like the mother you’ve stolen from.

Contradictions grow on the same tree

like pessimists in a church.

What’s the closest prison

to Via San Vittore 58?

My thoughts wander

like lifeguards

on empty beaches.

My lifeguard is a teacher

who neglects his family.

My loneliness is a solo show

in a sold-out theater.

I’m an infant and adult

getting older with one metaphor.

Only chains can free me from freedom,

especially when mankind is guilty.

The world is a life sentence

whose grammar starts

in the next world;

life is a mistrial that continues

until there’s a death penalty.

Society listens like hung juries

led into separate courtrooms.

I’m tired of looking suspicious

at the existential airport;

Too often I’ve bought tickets

at the train station of indecision—

only to arrive at another one.

The way some fish can live

only in deep water,

so it’s hard to leave

home when the unknown

exists in welcoming realms.

Do you see these people, Arthur?

Unlike Christ bearing his cross,

they walk Via Roma hauling

mirrors on their backs;

like guns aimed by soldiers,

they see faults of others

but never their own.

Arthur, is this what we’ve become—

fishermen who can’t

endure hunger when the lake

of our nourishment

reflects society’s hypocrisy?

Society is cruel;

it tells sharks to drown

and eagles to fall from bridges;

it wants lions to give up their crown

and turtles not to hide in their shell;

it makes owls sleep at night

and scorns spiders for tangled webs,

but I’ve accepted my hell—

to live in pain is easier

than living to end the pain.

I’ll gaze at the oceans

the way old people

glance at graveyards.

I’ll burn bridges

like retreating armies

protecting their homelands.

I’ll fear being myself

like alcoholics who’ve lost

all control of themselves.

I’ll make up stories

like soothsayers who don’t

ask for money.

I’ll go on with my day

and feel the sun’s heat

with my eyes.

In nature, I’ve searched

for the state of society,

but logic bore no fruit.

In nature I’ve searched

for the state of society,

but reason still wasn’t fruitful.

No, I must step out like an avalanche—

ravage friendships, hotel rooms,

maybe even the prospect of love;

then, like a storm at the end of its life,

I’ll find the strength to move ships

instead of destroying them,

make genuine amends,

and be there for people again—

resist sleepy apologies,

but live in the end

knowing that I’ve lived;

there’s no harm in destroying a forest

if you loot the way nature intended;

there’s no guilt in killing your prey

if only the forest is judging.

I no longer want to be a monk—

let me hurt others and be hurt myself.

The neighbors can hear

my insults and curses—

what do I care?

One way or another,

they’ll build thicker walls.

Who really knocks on the door

to check if you’re well,

let alone provides help?

Arthur, guide me to this world—

don’t take me to Paradise.

Like an abandoned house

on a remote mountain,

I don’t want to be saved

or to welcome salvation.

Hell can arrive at my doorstep,

because no one’s home anymore.

My heart will simply beat faster

so I can fall for the wrong person.

Let me go blind for a moment

when I feel like trusting a liar.

I won’t be hungry when I decide

to help swindling beggars.

I’ll ask dishonest people

for guidance when I want to get lost.

Arthur, I’ll show you

the paupers of Via Cavour,

old people laughing at churches,

and liquor stores run by Pakistanis—

don’t ask if they sell pork as well.

I judge like an ethnographer

exiled from his homeland.

My mouth is a window

that’s been replaced by a mirror

I can no longer open.

My hands are two empty chairs

no one has touched for years.

My heart is a bed

that’s too big for one person.

My mind is a room

I want someone else to inhabit.

Like being trapped

in a house full of riches,

no morning comes late enough

and no night too soon;

unbidden friends always leave early,

and no enemy is rude

when he departs too fast.

The world’s greatest cities

are people destined to love

only themselves,

but you, Ravenna, have become

an artist who’s too humble.

Your streets are like brothers

that won’t chase the woman

who rejected me.

When you stretch canvases

for inferior painters,

I notice how rough your hands are.

When you edit the lines

of stubborn poets,

I feel the weight of your thoughts.

When you give lead roles

to friends who can’t act,

I see the size of your heart.

When you conduct orchestras

that can’t play together,

I feel your devotion to music.

When you agree to paint murals

in forsaken buildings,

I see how little you care

for people’s approval.

Forgive me, Ravenna,

but I’ve become miserable

in your city as well.

Like a man who’s made

too many promises and broken

one out of memory,

not out of spite,

I failed to remember

how human I was—

in your arms I sought refuge

from a world that needs

more help than I do.

The way all photo albums

reach the limits of memory,

so the streets of Ravenna

will run out of room

for laughter and tears.

Arthur, tell me:

Should I continue destroying myself?

Should I follow you to the last

circle of hell?

Tell me, for God’s sake, tell me:

Am I also the slave of my baptism?

What if I join you in silence?

Why don’t you speak?

Like guests of honor

who arrive too late at parties,

I wish you were here as a poet,

not a tense voyager.

Maybe then we could both find a way—

be fascinated by ideas while losing

full interest in the world.

Arthur, is this possible?

Just say one more word

and it would comfort me.

Even bottles of wine

no longer bring peace;

I empty them just to put

blank papers inside;

still, no matter how close,

oceans are always too far away,

and mountains are never that striking

when you’re standing on top of them.

Do you feel the same, Arthur?

My whole life I’ve loved

everything from a distance.

Like an archaeologist who

won’t open the graves

of the holiest kings—

I’ve avoided the things

which I wanted the most.

Out of fear or respect,

I never found anything

that didn’t belong to me—

even without owners,

neither money on sidewalks

nor a watch in the park

could be mine.

Like lone guests in rich houses,

I’ve passed up thousands

of chances to steal.

Ravenna, I’m a poor criminal,

but perhaps ethics never starve;

I’m a poor criminal,

yet maybe I should

learn to deserve more.

The way trees look barren

just after harvests,

so I’ve felt too much joy

in giving away all I had.

Too many hands asked

and I believed each of them;

too many smiles reasoned

but I invited them all;

too many voices laughed,

yet I continued to trust.

A person who can only say no

when he owns nothing

hasn’t learned to refuse.

My charity is a hospital

where everything is an emergency.

My trust is a bank

without any cameras.

My conscience is a hotel

still trying to take guests

when there’s no vacancy.

Ravenna, will you give Arthur

and me a room so we can

escape the streets for a night?

I can’t promise we won’t break things—

the neighbors might also complain

and perhaps we’ll be broke

if we pay what you ask.

Our status is clearly depicted

by the dirt on our clothes;

our childishness radiates

from the wine on our breath;

our obsession is written

on the fixed gaze of our eyes;

our gloom only responds

in broken mirrors;

this is who we are, Ravenna.

Our torments are bad literature

rescued from book burnings;

our saviors are priceless

gold idols thrown

in the melting pot—

we have no more art left,

only a value.

We get tired of the same

bed even if we’re exhausted.

Arthur, I fear the day we’ll run

out of roads in Ravenna.

Like deserts make water

more precious than gold,

like oil makes deserts

more precious than water,

like war makes gold

more precious than life,

the best is always lost first.

Without water in the desert,

visions will come in three days

followed by voices of angels;

without poetry,

I’ll live a slow death.

Without oil in our engines,

society would die like Sequoias—

deserts would become deserts again

and forests could grow forests once more.

Without war, society wouldn’t bleed

in the desert and engines would

start hearing voices of angels.

Arthur, why do you laugh

at my bullshit?

Can’t I have more wine

than my bottles can hold?

Can’t I fill more cups

than my money will let?

Just say your nonsense

is better than mine

and end this silence—

stop being the exiled being

who doesn’t mind leaving his home.

Maybe I should cease

wasting paper like you.

Maybe I should also

find Europe oppressing.

I don’t know anymore.

The way monks choose between

two abbeys of equal hunger,

so I have two choices but only

one door to walk through.

My suitcases are full

of needless wishes.

My goals are two distant villages

not connected by roads.

My maps have all faded

in other people’s hands.

My willpower is a mourner

cutting an onion.

Ravenna, comfort your cursed sons.

Don’t blame us for neglecting

the Bible and drinking

at Piazza Duomo;

it’s way past midnight

and the cathedral is closed.

Still, we’ve not come to get drunk

but to seek solace in the Virgin Mary

that towers above us.

Our wine is the blood of humanity;

our bread is the body of science.

No matter which way we turn,

our minds are always against

something while our eyes

face society’s round wall.

Like people sent away

too many times,

we feel that only exits

are open to us;

like family that’s no longer welcome,

we’ve become guests in the world;

our respect sleeps in the basement—

always close to the door;

we’re invited back with reservations

and never asked to stay longer.

What else did you expect, Arthur?

We’re the sole visitors

who gave honest opinions

about the food no one liked—

our frankness has insulted the hosts.

We’re now desperate men

and people like us

rarely answer the door—

they’re usually doing the knocking.

Why must shame knock

and why must pride answer?

I thought the proud fall from heaven,

not the ashamed—

truly, the world is no Paradise.

Arthur, I know Europe’s air

is too strict for your lungs;

Africa and the Middle East are calling,

but stay a little longer.

Let’s go to Dante’s tomb

and honor the Supreme Poet.

Unlike Christians who

ravaged the temples of Greece,

we won’t harm the greatness

that’s become alien to us.

Arthur, I still blame that master

for not knowing the earth

revolves around the sun—

centuries before Galileo was born.

Don’t laugh, my dear friend;

it’s only 243 years.

Dante did likewise when he blamed

Socrates for not being Christian—

centuries before Christ’s birth.

Don’t laugh, my dear friend;

it’s only 399 years.

No, this is no joking matter—

this is the new Divine Comedy

and I place Dante in Purgatory.

Why? For believing all things

revolved around him—

classical arrogance of poets.

Arthur, you tormented soul,

I know you’ve abandoned the art,

but write just one more line.

What should I do with Muhammad?

I know you speak Arabic.

Say something. Guide me. Show me the way.

What words can bring him to Ravenna?

This city is 800 years older

than his religion—

how long shall my verse wait?

Dante could put him in hell,

but I haven’t mastered the poetry

that gets prophets out.

I, myself, am in flames

that are resistant to baptism.

I’m drowning in oceans

where the lifeguards

are old preachers.

I’m falling from low cliffs

that God didn’t hallow

with waterfalls.

Salvation is a guest

I’ve invited millions of times

and never befriended;

he’s always punctual

and brings friends no one likes;

he doesn’t drink and talks little,

yet he always knows more than you;

when the music starts,

he fears upsetting the neighbors;

he always leaves first

when the party gets wild;

life passes him like a bartender

who’s never had regulars;

no, that’s not my religion.

I arrive late like an old

man on his way to a funeral.

I’d rather go hungry

than eat like a doctor.

I don’t mind being sober

when friends are away,

but my senses aren’t grapes

grown on a farm;

I feel most free

on the hills of a vineyard,

running my hands through the crop;

the way artists cherish their paint,

I pick grapes and savor their taste—

never forgetting what purpose they have here.

Arthur, I see that you’re weary.

The lines on your face

tell me we can’t be young

in our future and old in our history.

Our bodies are books

that are harder to read every year;

our hope is a church

in which everyone prays

for themselves;

our despair is a conflict

that’ll end in stalemate.

I no longer know if we’re in the unknown.

Hell is twelve blank pieces

of paper disguised as a calendar;

it was born on December the 32nd

but doesn’t have a birthday or holidays.

Arthur, why don’t you tell me I’m crazy?

What’s really the point of it all?

Let’s go to Parco di Teodorico

and lie on the cool grass.

My legs are heavier

than two ships on

their last voyage—

my eyes are curtains

that’ve stayed open

after the end of a play.

If you won’t speak,

at least take me into your hands,

for the wind is too strong.

My secrets are graveyards without shovels;

my losses are the ashes of undertakers.

I’ve become a mathematician

who only cares about his problems.

Tell me I talk too much about myself.

Say I should have the apathy

of unfinished books—

feel the peace of those no one reads.

Say I should be an astronomer

who forgets the stars in the daytime.

Say I should be a historian

with a troubled past.

Say I should be a watchmaker

who’s never on time.

Say I should be a botanist

who doesn’t give roses to women.

Say I can be an architect

born from an unplanned pregnancy.

Say something, Arthur;

otherwise, we’re bound to roam

Ravenna’s streets

like two people looking

for keys they left at home.

What now, you genius

of self-imposed silence?

I know the next line

doesn’t warrant paper,

but I’m suffering.

Like Christ on the cross

finally asking for vinegar,

my pen can no longer endure—

it must become human now.

I’m neither strong enough

to burn in fire nor do I have

the courage to fall from clouds.

My medical condition

was diagnosed as mortal

and it’s chronic.

Sometimes I sit in Piazzetta degli Ariani

and think about the mosaics

I have no patience to look at—

much less accomplish myself.

The wind blows like bad advice

and the sun shines like a thin blanket;

so, the Ravenna days pass

like university lectures

given by old professors;

whether leaving Palazzo Verdi

or Palazzo Corradini,

I wander like gossip on windless days

before choosing to go home.

Like thinkers meditating on the shore,

I’ve sat in countless libraries

fully immersed in my senses.

I pondered the distance between

myself and minds like Einstein,

Dante, Beethoven, Goethe—

without wanting to open

their books and plunging

into those depths;

with each passing second,

the waves began to sound

like they were the same size,

and it felt right to be in my place;

at last, I ceased grasping distances.

Waves and the horizon

from which they were born

never showed their detachment—

like the depths of stars and sky.

Arthur, the best prayers say nothing

and occur outside of church;

like laughter on quiet shores,

the holiest scriptures are blank

and the soundest baptism

makes no vexing noise.

Like mirrors hung

too high on the wall,

tomorrow is just a day

to ignore the future—

a chance to live

like fortune tellers

who never worry

about what’s to come.

Arthur, say what you will,

but yesterday is easier;

it’s a marriage that quickly ends

in divorce but there’s no annulment

and the man never

loves a new woman—

I’ve had many yesterdays like this,

walking past the train station,

fully set on leaving Ravenna,

and I’ll have more tomorrows

where such thoughts will arrive again.

Like a person confessing on Sunday

and rising with doubts on Monday,

my house isn’t far from church,

but even closer is the bar.

Like sleeping sober on Monday

and falling for impulse on Tuesday,

every train has taken me

somewhere I’ve thought

about leaving on Wednesday—

Ravenna, although you’re beautiful,

I feel just the same here.

Halfway to hell I look over my shoulder

and see that Dante was right:

People everywhere

are like badly drawn circles;

cities surround me

like engineers without rulers;

countries confine me

like zoos no beasts want to leave;

the world stops me

like highways which end

on the coast.

Arthur, can the I in me truly believe

my mind revolves around the sun?

My body can’t possess a home

that I live outside of.

Every face I meet alone

and every feeling I face myself;

every laugh must leave from me

and every sorrow my ears shall bear;

every doubt my hands must carry

but any help only they can give;

every burden my eyes must witness

and every joy my skin will feel.

Yes, the bodies around me

and the voices I surround—

they’re math problems

you can solve without equal signs.

Arthur, how do you like Ravenna tonight?

Even when the streets are full,

it’s an instrumental song

whose composer died before

he could write the words;

it’s two people in a cemetery

speaking fluent Latin.

Like the last leaf on a winter tree,

you’re feeling restless—I can tell;

still, don’t leave just yet.

The way earthquakes don’t stay long,

so those with too much energy

are no strangers to the road.

People love the mountains

raised by minds like yours,

but they want you to give birth

without the slightest torment.

No, dear friend, you’ll never

come back to Ravenna.

All is finally lost, Arthur.

The worst fate people can have

is becoming beggars in poor cities—

I won’t even