The wrecking ball hits the building—
warm steam rises from the corned beef sandwich—
a man with a dark beard, cursing,
kicks a small dog half-way across the street
as the old wall groans
So the sculptor goes shuffling thru the junkyard.
A woodpecker stashes some walnuts
at the top of a telephone pole.
A woman with curly hair
stands weeping next to a bulldozer.
& now the strange hunger
felt by the fire extinguisher—
the inner monkey banging on its cage
for the sake of the beautiful 12-year-old girl
peering out the back of the Mercedes Benz—
the unskilled heart
out beating in the street
& beating with happy fear in the funhouse
whose mirrors are pre-warped & therefore faithful
even though the building is burning down.
The peak of summer. A sun
that eats away the shoulderblades.
Stephen Kessler is a poet, prose writer, translator, and editor. His version of Luis Cernuda’s Desolation of the Chimera received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets, and his translation of Cernuda’s collected prose poems, Written in Water, received a Lambda Literary Award. He is the editor and principal translator of The Sonnets by Jorge Luis Borges (Penguin). His most recent translation is Poems of Consummation by Vicente Aleixandre (Black Widow Press), and his latest book of original poems is Scratch Pegasus (Swan Scythe Press). He lives in Northern California, where he edits The Redwood Coast Review. (updated 4/2014)
Kessler’s translation of Luis Cernuda’s Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems (Black Widow Press) won the 2016 PEN Center USA Translation Award. The collection includes “The Family,” first published in AGNI 79.