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“Nat Turner’s Dream,” “The Morning Sky,” “More Words,” and “On Television”


was not a dream. In daily visions blood fell
“in the form of dew” that ran like branch
to root: across the heavens, stout angels
black and white hacked each other with bowie knives
and machetes. The blood caught fire like dead leaves.
The warrior seraphs burned but didn’t expire.

Their dew ran through bean rows and indigo,
and soon they got new Springfields and minié balls
that splintered bones and doors. When he was hanged
from a tree in Jerusalem, his angels sang
blood hymns they still sing while white and black
kill among the birch and larch. He saw that, too.




The red-gold soot foams and condenses
a sea of smoke that soaks the ether
and smolders across the roofs and ground.
I taste the ashy char of kindled drought.
Faraway fires thread the window sash.

Lightning pricked a pasture in the Sierras,
and the cooked planet gave its angry answer.
I watch the rouged smog from inside out,
with no inside, no out. The fires belong
to us. They live in us. We live in them.




The soldiers of my heart,
the totalitarian heart
that doesn’t deliberate,
words that are gristly desire
and a surge of orange leaves
around my anxious feet.

They spit at birds, get drunk,
howl down strange country roads.
Revise that. The heart’s words
are plasma oak iron virus
cotton candy hot chocolate
and oversalted chips.

The addictors, the liberators,
who never mind their business
and kidnap desire while
they convince desire to dance.
They feel like moist matter,
fetal, synovial, flushing

around the fatigued heart.
They are lagoons, riptides,
plankton and hermit crabs
and almonds and green jam.
I’m here and bound again
to count their ways and serve.




She irons now,
half-watching whodunits;
freshens hankies and shirts
to restore a pace
and shape of things
moment to moment
in the aspirated steam;
fingers her hair,
as if to sift desires,
in life, for life, terse
and melancholic;
mutes the remote;
rehearses lines
of Pergolesi’s Stabat;
sings softly
and folds tidy piles
of tomorrow’s
colors and whites.

W.S. Di Piero was born in 1945 in Philadelphia. A poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001. He traveled to Italy on a Fulbright scholarship in 1972, where he began working as a translator. A contributor to "The New Yorker," "The Atlantic," "Poetry," "Threepenny Review," and other publications, he is the author of some two dozen books of poetry, criticism, and translations. (Photo Credit: David Liittschwager)

Read More

More from Issue 8: Summer/Fall 2023


Pursuit Is Everything: A Conversation with W. S. Di Piero

by David Biespiel


“Hither,” “Submission”

by Jessica Goodfellow