Ninety-one Snakes

Ninety-one snakes on the road,
That’s like a flag of scales at half-mast,
Like rivulets that begin to rot,
Like vines that bleed and fossil skeletons,
A reptile uprising crushed by a reptile army;
That’s like cold and hungry children,
Warmongers rising from the dead,
Rage in city and country;
That’s like something crawling,
Like violence shedding its flesh,
Like forked tongues and silence of angels;
That’s like watching nature die,
Gill-man rising from a toxic lagoon,
A piscine horror on a bridge;
Ninety-one snakes on the road,
That’s like the Godhead in snakes.

Review of “Lost Luggage” by Salavatore Ala (published by Biblioasis)

Mark Mayes

‘Suitcase Hearts’

For some time now I’ve been reading individual poems by Salvatore Ala, via his blog and on social media. I was immediately captivated by them – the phrasing, the lyricism, the quiet confidence of the lines, the tenderness and the tension; the sheer skill of a writer who has honed his craft so to let the art bleed through, but subtly.

Part Two of the book is titled: “The Soccer Poems”. I’m not crazy about football, to put it mildly, but these poems I found fascinating, enriching, and haunting. Clearly, football here is a means by which other things (in addition to ‘the beautiful game’) may be spoken of: war, loss, childhood, death, fame – the individual become symbol (as in the poem ‘Pelé’); even genocide.

Salvatore Ala writes beautifully and evocatively about his familial background, in Sicily; fishing with his father, marriage, love, fruit trees, the sea, the…

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Ostia Antica

Poetry is an empty vessel.
You fill it and it’s still empty.
           Roman proverb

Here the earth absorbs the debt,
Soil removal unearths a deficit,
Deadweight tonnage weighs on the ruins
Accounting for actual total loss
Or assemblages of waves on the Tiber
Or slave labor or any diffusion.
Concerning these open-sided containers
Transactions are void, transhipments nullified,
All transit reduced to terminus
And the archaeology of commerce,
Save for the temples of worship
And the living theatre of the people.


Looking at the flower at the swallowtail
At stillness and motion
At wing and leaf
Tree and forest
Shadow and light
The flower closing the sun setting
Swallowtail and flower
Petal and wing
Time and eternity
At these that eclipse the sun
And fold night
Into the fabric of aligning moons

The Falcon

(imitation of 12th century Arab-Sicilian)

I owned a falcon whose wings were long,
An Emir’s gift for a marriage song.

She was like the shadow of a palm leaf in flight–
And in repose, like the shadow of a slender blade.

She was like the shadow of fire on smoke,
A sunbeam surging through clouds.

Her blood-feathers opened to my caress,
Her eyes quickened the embrace of death.

O falcon, bride of hunger and light,
You have risen like the risen sea and are gone.