Lines for John Berryman on the Bus from Little Mogadishu

Benjamin Gucciardi

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.

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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."
—Eduardo Corral

"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

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