Carmine Starnino. With English Subtitles. Kentville, Nova Scotia: Gaspereau Press, 2004.
1was steerage-bound and unliftable
2with stowed hope. Put anywhere,
3it stayed put. Heavy as Ptolemy's
4eight-volume guide to the world's 8000 places.
5Barrel-plump, girded and gridded
6with twine, it gave off a great hurry
7as though it were King Aeolus's valise:
8north, west, south and east winds
9roofed-in for the ride. Émigré swag bag,
10sea-going satchel, abandoned where
11it wintered, or set aside for old shoes,
12but still champing to be off, brown
13relic of durability made indefatigable
14with mileage, like a tire worn smooth
15but still sound. And never the posh,
16wickerwork, brass-latch brand either
17—an Oshkosh, a Hatmann, a Wheary,
18a Seward—but a no-name garment-drudger,
19its leather stained by damp blooms
20of salt, and so warped with weather
21the grain looks oaken. Open, it smells fumey,
22like soil left to fallow after a season
23of rain. Tipped, it turns turtle on the floor.
24Stacked, it's a plank in a pile shaken
25out of true. And upright, it albatrosses on the deck
26of an attic, big-winged and hunched.
27Or that plain-prose bag dreams itself
28a sentry box, a choir stall, a bale of hay,
29or maybe, kindled by its testimony
30of all that blue, all that water shelved
31on water, it dreams its hull into a hinged
32basket floating down the Nile, a little
33St. Brendan boat steering the promontories.
34No. It knows itself empty, long-used,
35and outmoded, knows itself one of those creatures
36conjured by mapmakers, a grimacing
37unguessable thing cramped in a margin,
38knows itself much punished, dun-pallored,
39steeped in the practice of persistence.
RPO poem Editors
Poem used with permission of the author.