Stephen Massimilla





Nothing to lean on in the living room.
Through the scrub brush and the fence
the sun is slumping. Swings rock
in the breeze, and roses nod
from their trellises.

             Faceted flasks on the table
and diamond pendants of the chandelier
glisten silver and red.
I once told my wife
the story of Cupid, how he settled
by Psyche’s bedchamber at dusk

             with an amber vial in his hand.
He was to pour that water on her skin,
to make her fall for a brute animal,
to pervert her love,
but when he drew the sheer curtain,
his destiny changed.

Her bed was an onyx cameo, and she was
nude, too ivory-pale, but more lovely than Galatea
and as still. When he crouched over her
and she opened her eyes, he knew he was fated
to betray his mother, to betray out of love
for a mortal.

             My wife was impatient, I could tell
when she stiffened her jaw to conceal
her yawn. She just wanted to make me feel
that there was nothing impressive
I could say. If I had let her go to bed,
she wouldn’t have slept anyway.
And there is more:

             Psyche later stepped into her fiancé Cupid’s chamber
after slipping through the lucent drapes of voile
that hung between the marble columns
of his home, his palace, high above
the ocean’s dark furrows.

When she cupped her palm
over the candle flame, her fingers filled
the room with what she imagined
were preternatural shadows.

Poisoned by the tales
of her envious sisters, she stalked in dread
of the darkness, suspecting that Cupid, her future husband,
was a monster, a deformity. But the moment

she lifted her hand, the flame
spurted in the wind, lit up the crescent
of the knife in her sash, and lit up Cupid—
brighter than a cloud at noon—asleep
on the griffon-legged couch. He seemed
to frame her name with his lips. But when
she crouched over him, a hot gout of wax

on the rim of her taper lost its opacity
and trickled to his skin.

             He later said he would leave her
forever, that “love cannot dwell with suspicion,”

and yet he kept following her, redressing
her every mistake. He married that woman.

What I mean, I said, it is not the jewelry
I give you; not that it makes me pale to see you
with a brute.

             Just now that we know
we are both vulnerable to a dagger
between the ribs, we can love each other

again. And again she said (the clouds
are on fire) she wanted to talk about
“alternatives.” But no, I said no, that is not
what I meant when I said
I would have followed her anywhere.






             December melting backwards, past fall, summer, spring . . . 
                          —J. Stallworthy


How can the heart’s fading sayings be as blessed as the gift
of the day in which you were uttering them? And someone

like me has to have spent those thirty-two thousand slow
seconds gathering more facts about what was lacking,

having observed our over-loved puppy chase after autumn,
barking toward the unforeseen, tracing crooked circles




in the variegated leaves. So we’d never go on to skate a figure-
eight infinity. And what to make of what had dwindled all through

the warmer season before the fall? Among the missing were non-
matriculating insects, including not even a dust moth drinking tears

from the eye of a sleeping wood duck.




                                                                              Earlier, in last spring’s chill,
in pool-like lenses reflecting several blades, one of two swans

in the flow and glitter of shore-grass drifting snow-blue in the glare.
Your confessions to more vital aspirations had been wrung

from phantom paths of exposure. The image of a wobbly drizzle was still
fittest for echoing their music.




                                                                              What’s the most lasting theme,

in contrast, if not the end of time? There—and here—we were,
wanting to be too youthful once more, leaning to spot love’s

slippage—its drift, and shattering. The heart has to come out
of someplace cold enough to vanish back into. The weather then,

as now, was moving toward still, and still clearing. Stars appeared one
by one. An indigo planet shone distinct in the mirroring plain.