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Stephen Massimilla


Landscape by Albert Bierstadt

Colors breaking through sheens of oil on glass.
Toy marble sun, swirling cerulean, flares
on the engine crescent.
.                                           Leaving Utah,

my squat heart buzzing
over the mesa surveys a hemisphere
of black resurrection moss
on weeping canyon rocks carved
by wind into gods

worshipped by their shadows. As I nodded off,
the night was deep as salt caves splintered with fifty
generations of skeletal remains
of bats.
.                  Dreamed of a dusk of thin red birds, two gophers
.                  in gopher-light, the grin of a lizard
.                  doing push-ups on a cactus stoop.

.         Thought I woke to the mountain dissolving in light
the way a chemical mask
claims another face
in the lab. The acid moon
filled a wild hare’s eye
for just a second. Looking through
my plane window, my eye stabbed by sun,

I thought I woke again, this time to
the night before leaving the desert
in a canyon where
.                                  I’m thinking of leaving:

a lover’s gloves dig and dig but find no body. Love
has returned to the dream of her bones. Water
is a blue shade mirage. Aqua lights

fade into the waving ridges
of a horizon gone missing.


About the writer:
Stephen Massimilla’s latest books are the award-winning Frank Dark (Barrow Street Press, 2022) and the 2022 coedited social justice poetry anthology, Stronger Than Fear. In addition to the award-winning Cooking with the Muse (Tupelo, 2016), his previous books and honors  include an SFASU Press Prize for The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat; the Bordighera Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday (CUNY); the Grolier Prize; and a Van Rensselaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch. He has work in hundreds of publications, including Agni, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, The Literary Review, Poetry Daily, Tampa Review, and Verse Daily. He holds an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. from Columbia University and teaches at Columbia and The New School.

Image: Landscape by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). Oil on cardboard. 18 7/16 × 16 1/4 inches. Unknown date (before 1902). Public domain.

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