On a Curve in the Tiber

chalk on Roman sidewalk, 1987, anon

 

On a Curve in the Tiber

—photos and text by mickey morgan

The bus throttled to the middle of the bridge and stopped. Pressed to a wide lean with packed bodies swaying to the bus’s forward then backward lurch, I hung like a monkey from the ceiling strap. I tried to be nonchalant in the forced intimacy of strangers’ bodies, flush as lovers, against mine, a fully-clothed ménage a trois, unconsented to by at least one.

Tiber 17

Tiber 24

Tiber 23

Tiber 30

Tiber 22

Tiber 29

I looked straight out the dust-coated window. All color equalized to tannish brown: tops of cloud-blasting cars much larger than their chain-smoking inhabitants, pocked marble bridge rail, murked water of the Tiber.

Tiber 4

Obedient liquid stroked the controlling walls as it slid past. Supports of the next bridge further down severed the solid mass of watery body, a fallen column hewn to impotence in three willowy ribbons.

Tiber 28

Tiber 25

The column had no hope in its encounter with stone walls, spewing round the supports in curves as clean as streams of blood from the surgeon’s knife to the vein, the curves from either side meeting each other in back of officially staid marble, happily intertwining in a dirty froth,

Tiber 27

dashed to shoveling curves to pitiful circles powerless to complete themselves, shifting and merging tumbling over each other in dirty new abandon they had never known.

Tiber 26

Tiber 20

Renaissance steps. Strips of white marble bordering cubes of black volcanic stones easy to descend, a long ramp with subtle and regular drop.

A city worker, gray-haired man with blue workcoat. Sweeping up dumpings dropped from high walls holding the city out of the river. The air had a subtle stink, not quite saturated with fumes of rot he shoved along with a broom of bound-together switches.

Tiber 21

Strewn bones, chewed clean of their meat, legs, spines of a chicken carcass, red with the residue of blood-stained bone-white plastic bags billowing crinkly in the mild wind, pale blue sails sprinkled with coffee grounds caught against masts of dry leafless stalks scratching the wind in shivers back and forth. Determined plants shoved between the cubes of black volcanic rock, thriving in barren decoration of droppings from above. Orange peels, edged with fine brown, a veil shrouding them, orange life beginning to conform to earth brown.

(O Roma! Thy bounty and beauty!)

Tiber 19

Another plastic bag burst open on the stones split like a body’s skin, dashed open, styrofoam plate swelling through the wound, tomato drippings, husks of pumpkin seeds, discarded shells, the skin, left to the lonely task of rotting, (as we all must), bones that carried the meaty life, stark now in their fall.

And the river. Green mucous-slide moving at the pace of a fast walk, mindless flow of water, ordered to fallen column-shape between the walls of the banks, surface of desert green slides in silence, like masses of people, duly shuffling to the ovens.

Tiber 14

A metal car muffler floats by. It does not bob or drift but moves with purpose. Rides forward at confident speed, A marble slab of bridge support leads around to become a precipice, cliff’s edge over the turn in the river. Rocks suck the water out of monotone. Speed increases to that of a human, rebounding off into living plaits fuming with combustible foam.

Tiber 6

Plaited fall to classification, categories, ordered drugged heads spilling to watery logic. An open space white marble meeting the asphalt sidewalk, under the arch of the bridge. Underbrush covers a section, washed to one direction when the river was swollen. Bits of indestructible plastic wrap caught on its branchy twigs but all dried to stiffness and swept one dry direction. A hypodermic needle.

Tiber 15

And then another two of them flush, like lovers, seen. Blood in tiny stains on the needle of one. Blood pulled into the needle, backed up the syringe of the other, littered like smoked-up cigarette butts.

Tiber 9

A drizzled condom unfurled like the shed skin of a snake. On the asphalt under the bridge.

Tiber 5

(O love!)

And then the frescoes, tall as this body. A black scaled dragon, its head a human hand, each finger a circumcised penis head with a face, five bald men, big-eyed with droopy folds of skin.

Tiber 37

Sonia Leopizzi e Sandra Serafini

Semo Della Maiana Forever

Nadia ti Amo 24-2-87

Israele

Amo Chantal Settimio

Tiber 36

Signs on water stained walls.

I am leaving, retreating, running, fleeing back, above, where people walk over the bridge, cars toot, bleat, rush fiercely at street level. Buses roll up, several, to a middle strip of pressing people. I climb onto one marked “Coliseo.”

A girl, her legs crossed and propped in the back seat of the bus, sleeps with her head in her father’s lap. Her father holding a limp pink toy. She sits up, a dazed faraway, otherworldly look on her face. A dim soft world. Smooth and warm as the skin on her face. Her father smooths the hair from her forehead. Soft brown hair touching her cheeks in loose curves.

Tiber 3

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

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To Jimbo and Jeanne . . . and Because of Jonathan

the-tree-ol-life-stoclet-friee-gustav-1909

Gustav Klimt, 1909

Saturday, November 28, 1987

Orlando, Florida

The Jeanne Miller and James P. Morgan, II Wedding

The gardener digs in the earth,

piercing rich soil with shovel-edge,

turning and churning moist ground,

hoeing the ground, the gardener hoes the ground.

 

The women approach the gate.

She, Rosie, pulls back the wrought iron

and Barbara goes in, Rosie follows.

The gardener looks up.

 

Fresh turned earth seeps a smell

of readiness.

And Sonny waits.

These women bring the seed.

 

They walk with mother-touch,

Firm press of foot-soles mark their intent.

Sonny knows. This is what he wants.

The ground is ready.

 

Barbara bends to the soil, parts it,

deepens a trough in cool black crumble.

Rosie, the seed cushioned in the center of her palm,

leans to roll it out and down the sculpted tunnel.

 

They hesitate. Neither moves. The gardener

waits. As if the next movement could be

thwarted, put off, the tiny seed taken back

from prepared ground

at the bottom of a small hole,

alone

in the garden of the gardener.

 

But this was only a moment’s hesitation.

Both women scooped cupped palms to cover the tiny life,

pressing soft earth to contain and protect the seed.

Barbara poured water over the mound.

The earth drank it up.

Each woman leaned back.

The work was over.

 

Now to sit, still, so still

and wait, just as the gardener waited,

watched, with foot propped to shovel-edge,

his hand resting on Rosie’s shoulder.

 

This was no ordinary waiting, in ordinary time.

Years, the two mothers watched

and Sonny leaned to see, as the ground was pushed

back by the fledgling plant, unrolling

its succulent stem so like the embrace

of a man and a woman,

indivisible and upward to the sun,

warm and open. Two branches broke out from the main

stem, opening to the roll of warmth that descended.

 

Reaching stems proffered leaves, like palms

of lovers asking and receiving the necessary,

Stems lengthened to vines, leaves widened

and the mothers watched, the gardener waited

till day faded–no ordinary day–and night’s moon

yearned halfway down. The vines folded

into each other, bent and twisted and wrapped

within each other, so like the life

of a man and woman and the night

was good and cool and close.

 

Yet the sun came back,

slow creep into black,

slow to pink the sky,

and orange the dawn.

Vines untwined, palms unfurled

and reached sunward so like imploring arms

of lovers.

And the mothers called

to others: Paul, Fred, Vickie, Jacquie,

Wendy, Dean, Flora, Louie,

Michele, Nancy, Bonnie, Ike.

 

Now is the time,

full and open is the day

no ordinary day, no ordinary time

as vines bear fruit,

unnameable fruit,

two distinct kinds from one plant,

so like two friends

of the compassionate kind.

 

And the people hear

and the people gather

at the gate to watch the mothers

and the growing vines

and the gardener keeps hoeing, hoeing.

To Boy Danny

portrait-of-andre-salmon-moise-kisling-1912

[portrait of Andre Salmon by Moise Kisling, 1912]

To Boy Danny

Hey boy,

I’m misty, boy,

Yeah I’m misty

Twisting snake of a

Woman,

I undulate

Just for you.

My sweet mouth

Waits for your taste,

Boy, sweet boy,

What are you doing

Here?

I see you know.

You eye my crust.

Don’t tell now, ok?

Just come over here.

My breath hots you up.

Don’t pretend;

For dinosaur years

I’ve seen that flush.

You want my flesh,

My ash-ridden, brown leather

Skin.

You’re just like them all

With your hot flush,

But

Your eyes suck for more,

You know, boy, you know,

You could cry at me,

Couldn’t you?

Don’t pity me now, ok?

For dinosaur years

I’ve flicked my ash

On sleeping trash

Of genitals with arms

And legs.

Sure, I’ll dance for you,

Squeeze my used body

To places you like.

Do you want that?

Do you want that, boy?

You can’t look at me,

I spare you that.

You would drown,

Little boy,

If you saw me,

So I shade my eyes

And sway my black,

So you don’t have to look,

Not yet.

You know, boy . . .

One day your mirror

Will spill your black.

Your black,

Then come back, boy,

I’ll wipe the ash

From you,

Sweet boy.

 

Tree

TheAngelOak1400yrsoldCharlestonSC

The Angel Oak, South Carolina . . . 1400 years old

Tree

Rooted earth deep

The tree inhales

Sucking the ground of its mound,

Drawing this need through substantial trunk

Of soft pith and sap.

Protected by the pitted terrain

Of scabby bark.

The current designs a gnarl

Of branching

Squirting into leaves.

Flustered to hysterics by the wind,

Dried to parchment by the sun,

The leaves rebel.

The tree exhales,

Shaking them grounded, then ground

Sifted into the mound

Earth deep.

white peacock

Robert Mapplethorpe

Long and lone I fled into a vessel

I saw a blood lake yawning wet

I couldn’t say anything

shut up as a pea in dickens of care

I flew out, aped my horse sense and

Crusted angels frisk and his nose joints,

outbending any sleeper. O but a nile to lie down!

Death cane loaded, he was slick to be wheeled.

Now they crawed his slippers, now they licked him to sepia.

They were climaxes.

He was condensed,

turning again,

shifting his limbs over humps of seconds.

Steamy loss, he had pelted each trust of the casement,

prominently unzipped and hiked out to the field on his knees.

An anus relates peaches to paintings and his ran a whip to the bone.

Leaning into the beam, nipple-wishing, dealt it deeper.

A hollow body-skip lanked him, piled him to a salty pitch.

The other, lipped in cold cement, rammed the walls,

drove the edge up to his arm, honeycombing

pain to the sills. Light sang cold and opulent, in yowls.

O master! O fulsome bone!

A death like toast is freer and bleeds—

no longer sempering but devastated,

dropped, devoted to foreskin—its rich pull.

—mickey morgan