Kathleen Graber
The Eternal City

The attic fan rattles quietly in its perfect tin house—as seemingly ceaseless

as the body’s unquiet engine.  Today something’s gone awry: the drone,

usually poised, a silent arpeggio, has become a disinterested scream.

This is the third heat wave of July. Again the fire department

sounds a citywide alarm & then police cars wail. Rome is burning!

But Rome is not burning.  Instead I am reading, in a shrill hum,

about Marcus Aurelius—because this is what I do on days too hot

to move—the heads of the red geraniums steaming in their planters—

too hot to imagine that we might send up our lives in flames.

The mind is more than a simple container, the junk drawer

behind the stove.  My thoughts clang like pennies in the dryer.

O, my racket—ice against the blender’s wall of glass.  The Eternal City,

Brodsky writes, is like a gigantic old brain, one that’s grown

a little weary of the world.  And what have we here?  Tarnished keys.

A chipped teardrop from some dining room’s chandelier. The trick

must be to love both the blade & the air it shatters.  A flock of birds

meets the airplane’s roaring turbines.  We pass the stuff from which

we’re made—look, a single pocked marble & an exhausted emery board—

through our own propellors.  The phone rings, but I don’t answer

though I’ve been expecting it.  It stops, then rings again. Still—

I don’t pick up.  Loneliness, our one defendable empire.  Aurelius, too,

loved metaphors: the inland lake on the island Aenaria; in that lake,

there is another island, it, too, inhabited.  O, my acrobats, in the dark

capital of nested boxes, be with me always, secure & tumbling.

Found In Volume 36, No. 05
Read Issue
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Kathleen Graber
About the Author

Kathleen Graber is the author of The Eternal City (2010), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Correspondence (2006), winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Her honors include a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, an Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Hodder Fellowship in Creative Writing at Princeton University, and an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship.