Lines for John Berryman on the Bus from Little Mogadishu
You jumped from the bridge a few blocks from here, onto the west bank of the Mississippi. It was a Friday morning in January, icicles must have jeweled the trusses— how bright they shine today. But I'm not writing to describe the city.I need to ask what it takes to point your toes and slice through mantle, to crawl around the groans of a winter flume.John, this is not despair, not even boredom— but the grind of air brakes, Drake crooning through my neighbor's earbuds, a diesel engine down Washington Avenue, they all mask stone's tectonic lust.Should I confess, I was happy once? Ten months chasing weasels from olive groves in Liguria. Do fields in the afterlife need tending, too?I think of you in that sunken garden, shears in your pocket,as you pour a shot into your coffee and watch bees weave in and out of the buckbrush, lingering on the broad whiskey petals of your breath.
“Lines for John Berryman on the Bus from Little Mogadishu” from WEST PORTAL: by Benjamin Gucciardi.
Published by The University of Utah Press July 30th, 2021.
Copyright © 2021 by Benjamin Gucciardi.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Benjamin Gucciardi’s first book, West Portal, (University of Utah Press, 2021), was selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. He is also the author of the chapbooks Timeless Tips for Simple Sabotage (Quarterly West, 2021), winner of the 2020 Quarterly West Chapbook contest, and I Ask My Sister’s Ghost (DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press, 2020). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, The American Poetry Review, Best New Poets, Harvard Review, Orion Magazine and other journals. In addition to writing, he works with newcomer youth in Oakland, California.
"In West Portal, ravishing beauty and ravenous grief braid into utterly lucid and breathtaking poems. The language—deftly scored on the page, rippling with tenderness—radiates with the hushed warmth of an intimate conversation. Ben Gucciardi’s first book has the lyrical depth of a second or third book. It’s an astonishing debut."
"The beautiful and the terrible live alongside each other in this work. And so often, they’re actually the same thing. Or they are happening all at once. There is such deep searching in this book and such formal precision. And the language is luminous, which makes the harrowing physical and psychic landscape even more profound. At the center of this world is the ghost of the poet’s sister who proves that ghosts are always the best teachers. They see us."
—Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of Rocket Fantastic