Poetry has long been my companion. She taught me the music and the swerve. Here are three of my poems that I hope you’ll enjoy. They’ll be changing from time to time. For new poems published in April 2012, please visit Hoppenthaler’s A Poetry Congeries archived in Connotation Press.
ON TURNING SIXTY
Once I thought this was old,
but now I’m glad as an egret in the late light
poking about in the mud,
the snowy egret we glimpsed
in the ditch, late light, San Joaquin creek
Oh reclamation. Hasn’t that been my life’s
long work? Loss and loss
and reclamation. Flooding the rich marsh again.
The little egret dabbles her foot
in still water to stir up fish, crustaceans.
I’d also like to dabble such
an elegant foot, pen to rouse the delicious
life that awaits us, hidden
in the sweet ditch of time.
The egret’s legs are black in front,
gold behind. So when she stands motionless
we see black calligraphy or lines of light.
When she lifts her leg
the fish look up and see brightness
about to fall upon them.
Then night descends.
So much wisdom in the stalking,
in the patience it takes to stay alive.
It happens every instant.
The dusk burns with unimaginable colors
I couldn’t even dream.
Yet fuchsia, magenta and plum clouds
are purpling the sky above us as if
it were the last day on earth or the first.
Every moment – reclamation of joy,
every friend – reclamation of love,
every memory – reclamation of moment.
But the heart knows no time.
The night is wide open. The egret plucks
a small worm from the mud.
Plucks a worm from the fissure of dusk
mirrored in the ditch. All beauty begins
in the muck. Juicy warm silt of dying things.
Who can understand this?
I’m just foolishly happy to be 60,
to have reached such a beautiful number.
BARE BRANCHES OF SEPTEMBER
Tonight the moon falls
into the well at the bottom of thought.
I’d never hoped for such joy but
it came anyway doubled by autumn
there in the darkest water. Root
nodes white as planets in a thick night sky.
In a dense theater. In a dim elevator where
after the film, two very old couples step in
beside us, their four faces rilled and pale.
When I press the button
it lights up another smaller moon.
One of the men asks, are you happy?
At first I don’t think I’ve truly heard him.
But yes. My body stills.
And then they are gone.
CAPS OF SILK
My great-grandmother Annunziata
loved the full-length slant of perfumed
mirrors in half-lit hotel corridors cloaked
with dust, her paste gems heaving
upon the acquired breath of linen.
Her ancestors locked the true gems
in dark vaults licked by saltwater.
Topaz, jasper, sapphire, ruby, diamonds
lit from within. Uncut opals burning.
And all the furtive gold chains, unclasped.
(The courtesans in this city are not allowed
to wear gold, silver, or silk as part of their dress. . .
exception being made for caps of pure silk.
-Sumptuary Laws, Venice 1562)
Indolence runs in the family. Even
my grandfather frittered his fortune,
languidly counting his last coins
while others slept in the ochre rooms
or twined in the hissing wheat of midday.
My mother says, the blood of the Prince
of Savoia runs in our veins! Or falters
there like paint seeping into wet plaster,
our frescoed past a ceiling that flakes
mildewed graces, winds, angels upon us.
Dark grit of grandeur, pursed lips of
pleasure, royalty, royalty, remolata.
My fine inheritance comes to nil.
And the old villa closed now, staggers
beneath caustic rains, raw sun, stink
of the dead deprived even of final rites,
the coins snatched from beneath their tongues
by kin in flagrante delicto, the hundred-
year-old wisteria razed to make way
for a dance-floor that never was built.
Only the caps of silk are left in a tattered
trunk in the old seamstress’ attic.
Only the unnetted pearls that scurried
beneath the bed. The silver chains stolen
by crows in the sumptuary hours.
first published in the Crab Orchard Review Volume 11 No. 2