by Tullio DeSantis, Chinese translation by Jan Walls
I am learning my lessons well.
Reflected in ancient tidal pools
I see how shallow I am.
The numberless stars say
I do not count for much.
The September moon casts sharp pine shadows across my brow.
It is so far above me.
Dolphins smile, knowing they are superior beings.
Eyeing me, they dive deep,
demonstrating I do not see beneath the surface of things.
Even the sand fleas make me twitch like a puppet.
“minimal me” by Tullio DeSantis, Chinese translation by Jan Walls
when I stand on this hill with summer in my eyes
walled within grey cloud banks, the sky shakes
a river of wind flows through the valley
lightning happens branches shift rain falls
I can hear the roofs rattle
setting off a trillion sparks in me
and the hill is within me and summer rain and wind
are all at once inside my head and fill my body
I know there is only one thing and never two things
not the world and not me but something else
something that is just one thing
that I can understand and know only for an instant
then in the second half of that same instant
I forget what I know and there are two things again
I am lost until it rains
then I remember
there is only one
Warm Weather Poems
words and image by Tullio DeSantis
I fall for common birds
My youth misspent
With bushtits and boobies
Robin seduced me
Each and every spring
I loved her
For her breast alone
I’m still thrilled by starlings
With little hearts as grand
As the beating cores
Of brilliant eagles
That have no time to flirt
All birds are lovebirds
Equal in the blue eyes
Of the empty sky
The urge to possess
I learn to anticipate your arrival
Between the angle of the sun and your hunger
Waiting with my camera
One day I pull the trigger
Hold your image in my hand
And forget I ever knew you
I wanted you still
For my camera
I wanted your image
And to speak your name
As if by saying, “Indigo Bunting”
I could possess you
Camera ready now
I see only air
Above your branch
Where you were
Beyond your grey perch
Behind its green leaves
The sky is bluer now
But for a name
I could have been you
On that walnut limb
At the center of the world
a summer poem
blue air above us
surrounding warm skin
we’re free here
like undulant trout
we’re arms and legs
at play with each other
spead under radial boughs
of wide open elms
we’re hot pink
like the flesh of day lilies
as we pound each other
into the ground
galaxies whirl over the frozen pond
stream from an old coal shovel
straight up against the wind
I see light
of the big bang
fill the sky
to the edge of the moon
a deer on the
looks into my
we share a
in that cold
The End of the World
On my way home I pass a man.
He stands on the roadside with a sign.
“The wisest man in the world.”
White hair, standing there,
he looks harmless enough.
I’m curious. I stop,
roll down the window,
and feel the cold.
“Where you headed?” I say.
“I’m headed to the world’s end.
Looks like I found it.”
“I don’t think so. This is the middle of Pennsylvania.
It’s not the end of anything, much less the world.”
“Well, if you let me go along with you for a while, I’ll show you.
I’ll get out then.”
“I have about 30 miles to where I’m going.
I’m not going out of my way.”
“No problem,” he says.
He gets in, shoves the sign in the back seat.
We drive on.
“Your sign says you’re the wisest man in the world. Is that so?”
“OK. What’s it all about, then?”
“It’s the middle of winter. That means we are all dead. And we won’t wake up until spring. We die all the time but we don’t notice it because we all die at the same time,” he says.
“Do we all wake up at the same time then, too?”
“In a way we do. But that’s just a figure of speech.”
I’m thinking my passenger is clever, but he’s not the wisest man in the world.
“That’s it.” he says. “Don’t think another thought. I’m getting out right here.”
I bring my car to a stop. There’s nothing on either side but an old cornfield. He gets out and walks up a slight rise through snow and corn stubs. As he reaches the crest and descends, he seems to disappear. Just before that he drops a small piece of paper.
I have some time.
I pull over, park, and follow his frozen footsteps.
At the top of the hill I find a folded note.
He is gone.
Back home now.
I bury his sign
and read the note:
I am old and I will die
It is time to come clean.
I woke up at an early age.
I lived a normal life.
So that you believe me
when I reveal all.
I will do that now.
It is not comforting to know
Hearing this will not set you free.
Freedom is not for us in this life.
We cannot be other than we are.
We pass our time with useless things
As if we live forever.
It is our bodies doing this.
Our minds know very well we die.
But our bodies refuse to hear of it.
Our bodies desire the useless things.
We go about our days in service to these dumb limbs
Serving them endless amounts of what they desire
But does not sustain them
Making them as comfortable as possible, as they demand it
Because they refuse to accept they will die.
Our brilliant minds are filled with petty annoyance.
That’s our lazy bodies talking
Constantly forcing us to confront ourselves in mirrors
So we can see the damage we’re doing.
And while we know love is the answer,
We are faced with the hard fact
We can only be loved to the degree we love ourselves.
And we do not love ourselves.
We are our bodies.
And because they are such stupid brutes
They are utterly unlovable.
I am good looking enough to know looks are worth nothing
And wealthy enough to have figured out it has no value.
I am intelligent and know I can never be smart enough.
I see far enough to see an end.
Waking up is like this.
Once it is yours you see right through it.
And you know
Like everything else
It is nothing at all.
The secret of life is life.
We all possess it for a while.
The world ends.
It is time to say
We know it then.
We were already dead.
If spirits roam
In small spaces
Between slow burning suns
And the inexorable slide of gravity
They see our bodies
Living breathing steam
It freezes white in solid air
As if our souls are there.
Out cold in orange-yellow bays
Great bright stalls, greasy ice
Where we stand
Shocked by the knowledge
Of our predicament
Driven to wander
Words are frozen mind crystals.
Sentences are chunks of ice.
Once they are formed
That part of the brain stops thinking
And just repeats the words
Over and over.
We end up with titanic icebergs
In our heads.
Image: Cold World – Tullio – 2014
Words and Image by Tullio DeSantis
four million years moving through this hidden place
deep in your blood knowing it by heart
it has always been yours but now I share your secrets
you are everywhere these barren days
sex-crazed leaving traces on hard ground
showing yourself is your fatal flaw
you’re giving yourself away and you don’t know that
you cannot help yourself
I understand this behavior in my own flawed heart
sensing me in your space
I sense you in mine
we will both die here
you are more beautiful
and this is why
you are first to die
To the mantis on the wall
I’m a shadow cast by clouds
interrupting the warmth
of autumn’s fading sun
Lithe green conscious machine
400 million years of insect evolution
unfazed by my superior intellect
Caught in that moment
and sensing the presence
of an ancient predator
I retreat and anticipate
the uncanny evolution of empathy
once, sound was all above me
buzz of crickets, shrill cicadas
shook the trees
instead it’s the sharp crunch
of insect bodies
mixed with acorns
beneath my boots
old leaves too
one day they’re tree-bound and wind-rustled
and the next day they show up
seems fraught with some meaning
it is beyond me
like the warmth that slips farther
away each day
I know it is gravity
that does it
but it seems
much heavier than that
Late in October
Playing the odds of one more warm day
the last katydid is hanging tough
while a mantis prepares for hara-kiri.
Nervous chipmunks pool intelligence.
They’re drawing up secret maps
and hiding them in burrows.
I hear each year they forget
where they’ve stashed them
and so must struggle like the rest of us
blinded by frozen eyelids
toward utter hibernation.
Squirrels are in my face
staring right through me
peering for nuts I may have hidden
behind my ears.
I guess I’m no threat now
compared to what’s coming.
The ones who can’t take the pressure
throw themselves in front of cats.
Fault for the Fall
You’re just being cruel
We did all we could
To pretty things up
Trying our best to clean up after you
But it’s a lost cause and we know it
Tree-loads of leaves are down
Seeds strewn around
Berries rotting on the ground
The sidewalks are all sticky
With odd fruit no one wants
Getting fat is making sense
Already, some of us have given in
Ice on the sunflowers
Is scaring the birds
You’re holding summer hostage
Isn’t that enough?
Not only that
When I walked out the door
You threw my hat in the dirt
And your killing spree
Goes on and on
I know for a fact
The doe on the highway
-text by Tullio DeSantis
Entangled up in Love – Tullio – 2017