Keep me awake one minute beyond those I love
That I may guide them safely through dark doors
Keep me awake one minute beyond first light
Like an after-image of light eternal
Don’t shut my eyes unless sleepless I depart
Sleepless arrive where sleepless I embarked
Don’t close my hands before I touch the last wave
Don’t bind my feet until the dance is slowing
Don’t cover my mind before it pictures its dream
Don’t bury me before I write my grave
Or stop my blood until it flies in birds
Don’t let the wind blow into my mouth
Before my spirit steps into its spaces

Year Count Thread

Such a thin reed for so round a whistle–
I stop inside myself inside the fog.
I look around, owl-like.
Past and present meet.
The future calls from the street.
In all places I think
it is like this at times,
a wavering moment
in which something endures.

Salvatore’s Hell

My insomnia is getting absurd. It is purely literary. I lay in bed reciting lines of poetry from Keats, Shelley, Donne, Wordsworth, Hart Crane: “Insistently through sleep– a tide of voices– They meet you listening midway in your dream…” Now I know those lines by Crane are literal. My insomnia is like a poem being written in black space. It is like a poem that wants to be translated into light. It is like a feeling that grips my intestines with linked verses and won’t let go.

A Boulder Field in Nova Scotia

In this field the boulders seem hollow.
They contain a kind of solid sorrow.
They set out to complete the landscape
Like painters on a flat canvas.
In the field the fog is stone,
You’re breathing into the unknown.
The boulders mark a withdrawn world
That’s present in their path,
And since their path is the past
Thrown forward where they stand,
The immense round weight of each
Is lessened incrementally in all.
Aligned like planets, they warp
Our reality amid the lesser stars.

Ode to Keats

This living hand
This empty hand
This knife hand
This hand with gun
This sea creature
This open fist
And feeding bird
This leaf that falls
This cancerous glove
And budding flower
This bare-knuckle fighter
This harvester
And water bearer

Private High

After the first wave we step outside.
Predawn floods the arena
Of the mind like another drug.
The lake is like a gray plane.
Small wavelets seem sculpted
At exact intervals of sand and foam.
The hour is enlarged.
Every minute touches
The outer circle of the infinite.
My friend, overwhelmed
By rapture, weeps at the lucid
Disclosing of beauty;
He’s never seen his soul,
Never been so transparent.
Somehow the clarity
Has me immensely happy.
I stand on the cottage shore
Like some divine being.
I will never see farther,
Never comprehend more.
I look out at the lake
And embrace eternity
Like a gift to myself
I can’t open until I die.

Signature Piece

Snails in his poems, roadside greens,
Air-raid sounds and dictators’ bombast.
Olives grafted and blood oranges,
Larceny and justice divide him.
Red coral is rare in a deep poem,
Octopus arms and clouds of ink,
But Salvatore Ala backwards spells
A law of shared languages in rhythm,
A moving Mediterranean meditation,
A reincarnation better than his fathers
Still executing each other as spies
With children who believe their lies.
In which poet can you find an artichoke
With its heart open in a dream,
Pluck Sicilian guitar, play a mouth harp
And give the shape of life in breath.
His is the faint moan of a reed
Hearing its own exile and home.