Francesco Levato

Aurora [ 7 ]

Fallen                stonewise                               what were figure and substance, their splash

a steel sleet breaking to dust—

                Born of certain spectacle                               so universal in its plague

                Rome’s first commotion breathes musk

                from lace-work and brocade;

                               a waxlight where tongues of flame spire and spit,

                               never sign nor sound of interference should have been counted as sin.

                That is all history: and what is not now, was then,

                rough-raw and claiming privilege.

                [ … ]

I used to get up early, to sit and watch the morning quicken to grey,

                still as when frost breathes,

a palimpsest, a shadow erased on a charnel wall.

                               I would forget myself, plunge headlong into beauty and salt,

                the rhythmic turbulence of blood and brain,

                wicked as the mouths of godheads,

                edged like angels each knife that strikes

                a scarlet thread, some apocryphal new voice

                in the restless heat of doing something.

Aurora [ 8 ]

Skin for skin we turn, twist,                bring all to buckle in one bond,

                               that cold black score

                                              a scrannel pipe screaming in the heights of the head,

an enthusiastic fit struck into drops like horrible worms,

like small separate sympathies they bear blow after blow

as if such burdens were too light—

                                                             and we, black-hatted and hooded,

                               take our stations

                               in the doubtful dawn.

                [ … ]

Loved or love, we scarce distinguish,

and so I poured myself along the veins of others,

a violent flood, an answer for the dead,

what dangerous things to carry                               through all the spilt of the world—

                               We will live, Aurora, we'll be strong.

                               The dogs are on us, but we will not die.

Aurora [ 9 ]

Despite the distance and the dark,                               some interchange of grace,

                               all is wonder and wild desire,

                                                             such torn clothes and scratched hands,

                                                             such sweet drops wrung from filmy fire—

                               I see the comment on your lip, that sun that used to shine, now robbed

and starved and frozen too,                this fortune in rags—

                                                                            Did we give you up for this?

                [ … ]

Ankle deep in so much dust                half blind, half brutalized,

                having caught the plague from a thousand railroads

mad with pain—

                               Does one of you stand still from dancing,

                               stop from stringing pearls?

All's yours and you,    all coloured with blood,

sole of some abolished temple,

uncrowned till death has bleached foreheads to bone.

Poet, translator, and filmmaker Francesco Levato is the author of four books of poetry: Endless, Beautiful, Exact; Elegy for Dead Languages; War Rug, a book length documentary poem; and Marginal State. He has translated into English the works of Italian poets Tiziano Fratus, Creaturing, and Fabiano Alborghetti, The Opposite Shore. His work has been published internationally in journals and anthologies, both in print and online. He has collaborated and performed with various composers, including Philip Glass, and his cinépoetry has been exhibited in galleries and featured at film festivals in Berlin, Chicago, New York, and elsewhere. He is the founder and director of the Chicago School of Poetics, holds an MFA in poetry from New England College, and is pursuing a PhD in English Studies at Illinois State University.

He writes: "Aurora" is a poem sequence collaged from "The Ring and the Book" by Robert Browning and "Aurora Leigh" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Through radical juxtaposition, language from each book is interwoven to reveal a palimpsestic dialogue of isolation, discord, and violent beauty underlying the original texts.
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