Speechless the Magazine

 To render. Be rendered. Awestruck. Awesome.
A magazine of poetry and related arts straight from L.A.

 

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Stephen Kessler, Poetry Flash Contributing Editor

Stephen Kessler is a poet, journalist, essayist, critic, and translator of Borges, Neruda, Luis Cernuda, and Julio Cortázar, and founder/editor of The Redwood Coast Review. He is also the author of Tell It To The Rabbis and Other Poems, 1977–2000, After Modigliani (from which these poems are taken), and five other collections of poetry.  A contributor to The Essential Neruda translation anthology, he has published over ten volumes of translation; his most recent translation is Written in Water: The Prose Poems of Luis Cernuda, published by City Lights Books. He lives in Gualala, California, north of Mendocino.


Sleeping in Shelley’s Ashes

 I slept on the beach where Shelley drowned
and was burned right there by his friends
it was 1966 and we were driving up from Rome
and there were no vacancies in Viareggio
so Dave Mann drove his red VW bug onto the beach
and got stuck in the sand and we spread our pink plastic
laundry sacks from the laundromat in Venice
and lay there under the Mediterranean sky
gawking up at  the summer stars and freezing
and being eaten by insects and I could feel
the zits on my unbathed back erupting with pus
on one of the most romantic nights of my life
which may explain why I became a poet
because I passed that first initiative ordeal
and went on to endure far greater discomforts
in the pursuit of rooms for rent and elusive muses
sleeping in Shelley’s ashes was essential
I relish the smell of his charred but fireproof heart
even tonight under a cool California sky
whose stars are veiled by coastal mist
and whose thin moon has set hours since
just past dusk in this other summer

Vallejo Remembers

 Do you still make that little buzzing sound
between your teeth as your lover is coming?
you were the only woman I ever knew
who did that
and it was immensely sexy
20 years ago?
or whenever it was we were given our time together
and here comes the sound of the cable-car cable
heard from your bed
as it hummed and clanked under Mason Street
and the tall glass of water you always placed on the nightstand
and your fluffy white terrycloth robe and the down comforter
and your mandolin or was it a balalaika?
and when I lay behind you cradling your little breasts
you’d grind your butt so deliciously into my belly
those nights on Russian Hill
just up from Keystone Korner and the police station
on a street named after a Peruvian poet
still  reach me sometimes when I’m in the neighborhood
on the border between the smells of Chinese fish markets
and the erotic garlicky aromas of the Italian restaurants
red wine running through our brains and tongues
there was something radiant about those hours
so what if you made a habit of being late
it’s so much later now
what matters is what endures of our connection
brief as it was
a certain indelible residue
of tenderness

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Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright © 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach