Academic journal article Antipodes

Isola Di San Michele

Academic journal article Antipodes

Isola Di San Michele

Article excerpt

i.

Many of the graves here seem disturbed,

as if the owners had vacated suddenly,

hearing the high-tide warning ringing out,

sick of the damp, poor plumbing, spreading mold.

the gravestones rest at angles-dominoes

let fall in patterns set up by a patient hand-

worn to a grim industrial facade

like remnants of a power station in disuse.

Rust on everything: the iron crosses-anchors

ruddy with decay, inf lamed as fresh tattoos.

to get to the outskirts, where the poets lie,

you have to pass the teeming suburbs of the dead:

broad avenues of concrete tenements,

anonymous but well-maintained,

each with its little window box of artificial flowers.

sometimes a lamp, beside a marble door, is lit,

and if you get quite close

then you can see a tiny face,

frozen in expectation, peering at you

through a peephole in the stone.

ii.

i stand at Joseph Brodsky's grave:

limp water lilies, wilted crocuses,

narcissi hungry for reflections,

smother the simple plot.

A Russian man arrives, bends down

and plants a plastic ballpoint pen

among the blooms. Having no Russian

i try polish; we settle into english, warily.

He asks me for a photo, i oblige, and then-

whether in thanks or tribute to the dead-

he reads a poem in his mother tongue. …

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