Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

Ghost Hour Gospel
     for Eleanor Salotto

Mourning doves somewhere close by,
singing in their poverty.
The hour the dusk-darkened windows
finally lose all they hold,
the hour brass awakens
as a saxophone in a room across the street,
a ragamuffin empty-pocket tune

that reaches the commuters, the ones halfway between work & home,
& the ones between this life & the next one.


Seven stages between lead & gold, seven-
tenths of a second between the bridge
& the James River. Dogwood blossoms
drift through the air,
each a translucent body you can look through,
each a moon dreaming of rain—
their erratic lines of descent, slow blurs,
smudges of ash in the near-dark,
the traceries we are, the traceries we become.


Like a dropping of a million veils—
like the white trimmings of wicks.
A minute of splendor
is a minute of ash, a city of blossoms
is a city of ruins. Where were you for the six weeks
you were missing, I ask her.
My body was a relic pressed into the world, she answers.
I traced a line between the river bottom & the stars.


The icon of St. John of Nepomuk leaves its little faceprint in my palm.
Five stars in his halo
for the five stars above the Vltava
the night he was thrown in.
Nothing’s ornamental in redemption.
The resurrection’s a sun
in the eye of the blue heron
flying through the psalmhooved silence,
through the line of descent she was,
the eye I turn in without ceasing.  end 

The italicized line is from Charles Wright’s poem, “Portrait of the Artist by Li Shang-Yin.”

return to top