Michael Waters – Melrose

Michael Waters LEP&W V3 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three December 2022.

Melrose, poems by Michael Waters.



We named the bar Diva because we couldn’t decipher
The gold Greek script stenciled on its window,
Though it may have read Maestro or even Overture
As the bar was located off Poseidonos
Across from the National Opera House.

Late afternoons, the unlit taproom empty & cool,
I’d idle on a barstool, having taught a novel
By Wharton or James, to wait for my wife
Who engaged in conversational English
With dropouts who hoped to find work in the States.

I imagined myself in love with Parthenopi,
Quick & pretty &, mainly, Greek,
Her name common, “little virgin,”
& as I sipped a second retsina
I pictured our Lawrencian life together

On her island with its homemade
Wines & edible daylilies & ringing bells
As flocks descended hillocks to sheds
Before the sun extinguished itself
In the amphora of the Aegean. Pastoral,

My dreamlife remained adolescent & pastoral,
& as I bided time one early dusk
The bartender, whose name I forget,
Placed a bottle of Greek gin on the bartop
Next to an empty bottle of top-shelf British,

Then slipped a white plastic funnel
Into one small mouth & began to splash
The cheap brand into the Boodles.
Seeing my surprise, he motioned
Not for you & nodded toward the opera house.

Of course. Then my wife arrived.
You must change your life, wrote Rilke, but how?
We returned home to the familiar
Arc of an American tale—but
Even now I can recall that label.

I’d purchased a bottle on our stroll home
To see how awful any gin could taste, & discovered,
Dear ex, dear reader, that it didn’t burn my throat
Nearly as much as I’d thought, though
I knew I’d never drink that gin again.

The gift

for Mihaela

How I wish you could watch this lizard,
Blue now black now green,
Scribbling the whitewashed wall:
Living graffiti, throbbing glyph,
Shapeshifting in sunlight, feet

Splayed like asterisks,
Little starbursts of fireworks,
Its tail a stroke of cursive,
Now comma now apostrophe,
As it flicks its tongue to termites.

The day is languorous, composing itself
Slowly like these words on the wall.
After lovemaking, you sleep
In the sway of the mosquito net.
With your gift for making sense

Of tea leaves & coffee grounds,
Each spill in the universe
Never without meaning or metaphor,
You should wake to watch this creature.
My gift would be nothing more

Than the orange skirr of a lizard
Tagging a wall in sunlight,
Glossed here by the man
Who lures you with words
& with the tongue that shapes them,

Letter by letter, until you come.

The Levitation of Sr. Alphonsus

Six feet tall & more, she hesitated before
The bottom metal step & tilted
Her face toward the filthy skylight,
This woman bound within
Yards of funereal drapery, bandages
To quarantine flesh from sin, who
Stood suddenly ensorcelled,
Obsidian obelisk,
black waterfall
Reversed, her habit’s hem
Rising above stockinged ankles, then
The brogues themselves lifting
A few earthly inches
As she shed her body’s gravitational
Sorrow, its burdensome flesh…
Until the flushed nun
Roused herself to begin
Clanging up the school stairwell,
Ascending into fluorescence,
Once again corporeal.

© Michael Waters

Michael Waters’ new book, Sinnerman, will appear in 2023 from Etruscan Press. Recent books include Caw (BOA Editions (US) / Shoestring Press (UK), 2020) and The Dean of Discipline (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), as well as the co-edited anthology Border Lines: Poems of Migration (Knopf (US) / Penguin Random House (UK), 2020). A 2017 Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of five Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Foundation, Waters lives without a cell phone in Ocean, NJ.

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