November 2007

Steve Scafidi


Steve Scafidi is the author of Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer (2001) and For Love of Common Words (2006), both from Louisiana State University Press. He is a cabinetmaker and lives in Summit Point, West Virginia.

Lines for the Gates of a Cemetery

We had bound volumes of Persian
     geometry and guitars made of cedar.
We had loose talk and shivering
     as snow fell from the Eiffel Tower.
We had dishes and the bloody dream

of a flea sleeping in an eyebrow.
     The sadness of being was it turns out     
a kind of joy and everyone suffered
     as they disappeared. We had rivers
flowing over top themselves and green

molecules and the slow eyes of sheep.
     We had a use for things. We knew
the names of a thousand kinds of tea.
     We had the white possum in the dark
with the other tiny possums holding on.

It's sad. We didn't know what we had.
     And we had iodine in tiny blue jars.
We had eucalyptus trees and the planet
     Mars circled with us through mizzen
dot-light of the distant stars. We had

the tintinnabulation of bells and a word
     for everything. The pink dumb
moon rising and death with a top hat
     quietly laughing at us as he passed.
Even that we will miss. Even that we loved.



On the Occasion of a Haircut on the Fourth of July,
Charlestown, West Virginia, 2007

—After Terrance Hayes

I come from a long line of jackass halfwits
Stumbling toward America forever
  Until one fell into the broad cleavage
Of the customs officer's bride
  On Ellis Island in the summertime.

It was the Atomic Age until we spoke
In anything but a broken way—
  Our hands waving at the world.
I come from a long line of angry
 Chimney sweeps and drunken barbers.

Men with tongues as smooth as mirrors
And women dumb as hope
  As one thing slowly led to another:
Our traditional cursings of god
  Leading to a begging for mercy.

I come from a long line of the dead
Now collected in one place—the hold
  Of a ship lost at sea in a storm
That makes me dizzy. My skull
  Aches and I know they are in there.

If someone punched me in the nose
They would fall out of their chairs.
  I come from a long line of dabblers,
Cobblers and hunchbacks,
  Delusional mooks and fools.

I come from the swirling lights of
The barbershop wanting to cry
  Right there in the parking lot.
Big open-faced crying in the parking lot.
  Oh children, look at us!

No matter what our hair sticks up
And there was never any reason
  For love. You can wonder why
You were born and who
  You are and I'll tell you this—

You come from the parking lot and
The factory and days so hot the air
  Shimmers and nights as cool
As the cottonmouth of a snake.
  We came from nothing one day:

A fish, a protozoa, a lightning strike
Suddenly in the dead calm of a lake.
  The jagged line of brightness time
Is started everything to move
  Toward the drawing of a breath.

And the drawing of your mother
Someone did years ago, and which
  We see everyday in the hall,
Still shines. We come from sleep
  Every morning and see it is true.

  We carved toothpicks from pine
Trees for the captains of industry.
  We killed thousands. We died.
We mumblers and mouth-breathers,
  Humdingers and breeders.
                                          We'll be fine.



Steve Scafidi: Poetry
Copyright ©2007 The Cortland Review Issue 37The Cortland Review