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Mark Olival-Bartley studied applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University, attaining B.A. and M.A. degrees in TESOL, and poetry at the City College of New York. He is now anatomizing the prosody of E. A. Robinson’s sonnets for his dissertation at Amerika Institut of LMU Munich, where also he edits a poetry weekly. His poems and translations have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic. He is the resident poet at EcoHealth, where his science-themed verse is regularly featured, and a senior copyeditor of Review of International American Studies.

20130218

A Gilded Lapse of Time


by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

(Ravenna)

1.  The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

When love was driven back upon itself,
When a lapse, where my life should have been,
Opened like a breach in the wall, and I stood
At a standstill before the gate built with mud,
I thought my name was spoken and I couldn't reply--
Even knowing that when you hear your name
It's a soul on the other side who is grieving
For you, though you're never told why.

Among the hallowed statues of dead stalks
I stood, where the rosebush was abandoned by
The pruning shears, among the stumps of brambles
Near the muddy door to the next life.
There was a rubbish mound at the ancient gate
And a broken branch the gardeners had tossed
Toward the leaf pile, scattering its gold dust
Before the doorway carved, as if into a hillside,
Into a frozen room raised in the desolate
Outskirts of Byzantium, where now an industrial zone
Pressed toward the porch of an ancient church
Built in the fulfillment of a vow,
Where the Byzantines would lay aside
Their musical instruments in order to enter
The sanctuary unaccompanied; I stood

Uncertain at the threshold of a pile
Of enigmatic, rose-colored brick, a tomb
A barbarian empress built for herself
That conceals within its inauspicious,
Shattered-looking vault the whirl of gold,
The inflooding realm we may only touch
For one instant with a total leap of the heart--
Like the work of the bees who laid aside
Their holy, inner craft because the Lord
Whistled for them, and they fled
To Him, but long ago, leaving behind
These unfinished combs from biblical antiquity
We are forbidden to touch, still deep
In the wood's heart, still dripping on the ground.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

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