The Asphalt and the Stars

Ash-Can to Carthage

Lorenzo: 
                                In such a night 
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand 
Upon the wild sea banks, and waft her love 
To come again to Carthage 
                 The Merchant of Venice: Act V - Scene l

Sometimes I find
that Carthage lies a driveway’s length away.
Tonight, for instance, moon-and-wind-filled, falling
autumn and a hooting in the eaves. A time
to wonder if the temple-owls are calling
Dido’s name from high in pediments. The kind
of night that hides high, raking spars
and fresh-stepped masts of ships. A wind to lean
in, lift your face to and forget that there
is nothing but a garbage-can between
the asphalt and the stars.

In such a night
a sailor waits disguised as a Suburban
standing in his ash-canned driveway, listening
to the gutters and the eaves. A sailor watching
in the sand-barred dark beneath the whistling
rigging, waiting for the flare of signal lights –
and then the scrape of keels. This time with sounds
of leavings in the wind is mine and though
they’ll hold an eight-hour mortgage on my soul
tomorrow, now is freehold and I’ll row
the towers of Carthage down.

At such an hour
the wind has kick-of-tillers in it and
the tide is rising just beyond the grating
litter of a season sweeping round
the spill of street lamps. Work is waiting
in some century ahead of me but now
I’m togaed in a towelling gown and stand
one foot in Autumn and the wind-burned
effigies of leaves and one in Virgil still:
the only Trojan in the world who turned
again to Carthage with a garbage-can.

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