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The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
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the corpse reads classics letters the book of revelations and epiphanies
the making and unmaking of person
The Corpse Reads Classics

Nine Poems
by Robert Casella

Dirge for Love

I feel like an obituarist
hiding in a municipal granary,
standing in
a choir loft on 25
October Street.
The mullioned windows
remind me of
the Campidoglio,
and love's roots sink in
the earth like
impudent fingers.

I can't judge the door,
weight of misunderstood
It bears down on us,
becomes a thorn
in our sides.
So much is lost when we try
to explain
our feelings.
We know with our heads
what is leaving us
little by little
through a sieve
of insomnia.

Chimera, I write
these words
to you
from another planet,
another galaxy.
Love is burning
everything and everyone.
Unknowing, I too burn and
understand that
I am measureless.
Decrepit face of my
the hieroglyphic semen
of Proclus
dampens the guillotine of
I am seeking what is extradited,
o poisonous ant-heap!
Spiders guide me
through mirrors of
and I am broken by what
pleasure there is left to enjoy.
I am the oak,
the wind speaks through me,
my red branches.


War Poem

The muezzin, or
his tape recorder,
is calling to prayer
the voluptuaries of Constantinople,
and flares light the way
to the Ordu Museum,
their lances tipped in
the dark acropolis, domine,
dilexi decorum domus tuae.
The stone is hewn
with contradictions,
persuading you and I that it
is true. A less true pilgrimage
seems inevitable,
and the war we wage
against the enemy
stands like a monument
in this place;
where the bags of millet break,
a bronze finial moves
around in my head.
O Death,
you are marching on our heads,
and tell us that we,
like Sappho,
should die for the love of Phaon!

No icons hang on my wall.
I believe in neither god nor country--
both are dirty tricks.
I confer in marshes and admire those who
The moon rises and irises bloom
where earth and heaven meet
behind latticed windows.
I know how you look
when the fate of nations
and peoples hangs in the balance.
You mean business, your savagery is
paraded through the camp
like Hannibal's ghost.
Those who have their
truths are ignorant of truth.
America, the god you pray to
is unacquainted with
the Kremlin armory, and your
covenant is not a place
where cyclamen flower.

The eyes of love conspire,
are wounded by the mystery.
It is dust, shadow, a punched out nose,
filed down like a coin-box
with repentance, poetry, and idleness.
Death won't find a better cure,
and though we live conscionable lives,
we are a hateful, ignorant people.



Few remember what
they dream at night.
Like St. Theodulph of Orleans
we blend reason with faith
so that it may help us understand
those spheres that we cannot see,
like oaths lurking in the blood.
You will not make art again,
and Pericles crawls in the mud,
lifting his arms in admiration;
such are the relations
of man with man.
The names of St. Ambrose
and Synesius of Cyrene
who know the Heavenly Word,
whose principle is like a dull knife.
It is what we know and it works.
It affects, our love,
every domain, and we watch
its emergence in a landscape
of discordant voices that
rise from the dry soil of mistrust.
Nothing more are we than
the whole universe,
for we're cut out in solid form
and understand our trajectories well.
There is no core which abides in us
save the presentment of thought
and the liberties of conscience.


The Mystic

No one understands you,
not even Christ.

You look up and down the street,
at pavement, trees, buildings.

You feel anxious. You know too much.
The more deeply you comprehend the

happenings that make life--winter and summer,
night and day--the more you cling to

your greatest achievement,
to destroy all generalizations,
every breach of truth.

Nothing is, you believe, more important
than this.

You have real convictions and
see things others cannot see.


The Protestant's Essay

By doubting, says Abelard in his Sic et Non, we are led to inquire; by inquiry we perceive the truth.
Poring over the manuscripts of Rabanus Maurus
under a dim lamp, I recite the earliest hymns of antiquity. They cannot reconcile the simulacra of thought to the passions of the flesh. It abides in me as it abides
in you, like Clerk Maxwell's demon.

My mouth is dry. Through the window I see
a mule, an ox, a birch tree in the courtyard,
and wonder if I am dying.
It will be winter soon.
The hand I write with is parasitic and dreams of Dionysius the Areopagite and the oracles of God.



The defense of Africa Proconsularis remained
a senatorial responsibility, and what began as a fracas

developed into an attack on the Jews
and the burning of their synagogue in Antioch in 39-40.

Bacchus, with his healing power of divine love,
is seen approaching the sleeping Ariadne

beneath a vaulted ceiling in Heraculaneum.
And so we burned the eglantine, the

fern, the black fig as Tages emerged from
the plough's deep abasement in the bloodless earth.

The mind is now barren in Capua, inscribed on
a cinerary urn housed in the Louvre; the outlines

of an aristocracy where not one quintal of
wheat was squandered, surrounded

by pilasters and rectangular columns in the peristyle
of the House of the Vetti.

Waiting for the old calculus of death, having stolen
wool from the Milesians, I look for my child and am blind.

Our bones shall reproach our countrymen for their
neglect. Rome is therefore not surprised

as we drink from our Samian jugs.
The walls of our tombs are painted with the names of

cithern and flue-players il lieto rumore, that solemn
game in the temple of Jupiter at Cumae;

and I forgive the dead and pray that Gemellus' spirit is
damned like senators in the capitol, in that cold

room incrusted with carbonate of copper
and politics.



I dream of the river Sarnus,
the banquet scenes of the Tarquinii frescoes.
I've sold my abacus,
the father's name among the Lycians.

The doorkeeper retires to his office, carrying
the master's seal and purse.
We were never to be free from
the harvest of Ischia
buried in the debris.

Return to the Banditaccia necropolis,
for everything is what it is.
We are all trying to find God
inasmuch as we are trying to forsake him.


Thoughts of a Civil Servant

Belisarius remained loyal to Justinian
as I have remained loyal to you.
Our love was never once
considered a practical expedient of chestnut husks.
I become confused. I am Laius, son of Labdacus.
It is it conceivable for a normal, healthy child
not to be interested in something so obvious?
Is this why we cling to feelings of guilt? Is this why
we play our roles, unexpected though they are, hoping
that we won't flub our lines?
I remember the faces misled by their
own archaic quarrel in the village temple.
How much blood does a mother have?
I rub my hands together and
can already feel the bones crumble to dust.
That I am alive at all bewilders me.
Should I commit suicide like Cremutius,
I would have no daughter to save my books
from the torches of the aediles.





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the book of revelations and epiphanies working class sweat
the making and unmaking of person the corpse reads classics letters

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