R. A. Villanueva's Reliquaria (U. Nebraska, 2014)
Some favourite passages from this lush first collection:
beside priests burning camphor
upon the ghats, brace this eldest son
for what he must break with his hands
and the sight of his father's soul
freed from the fabric of his skull.
end of 'Sacrum'
...and the birds
with nowhere to alight,
all falling from the sky
with little sound,
their hearts damp
fireworks going off
in their chests.
His father's voice
a black ship
sealed with pitch.
If we let them, soon all we'll have
left are anthems, this looping montage of
eagles and bugles and smoke. Remembering--
I need you to know--takes names, faces ghosts.
But what can we offer save
for harvests of rust, black kites, signs
of the cross? Each morning the gulf
between promise and wound flares like
a ghost limb, a tunnel filling
slowly with salt water and krill.
from 'In the dead of winter we'
To settle here atop the trench floor
is to kick up grackles from their perches,
to run headlong into rooks on the tor
and to watch their wings overcome the sky.
from 'Drifting toward the bottom,
Jacques Piccard recalls the sky'
Light refracts, breaks
the great fish into a shiver of parts.
Cast in this sunset thickened
by the glass, two of the children compare
sketches: her shark devours a diving bell
whole. His night swimmer stares
straight up into a whitewater throat.
end of 'Vanitas'
We--cast into this pall, this tenebrae,
bound up by throat's clot, hair's shock, eye's seizure,
sweat's canker--are not different.
How can it be these gods we love call
me to bleed prone on my sheets? Douse duty
with wine's headiness, your jasmine taste?
torch and scabbard--pawn our breaths in this place--
this dark--perfumed with cedar, wreathed in gauze.
You, bare of laurels, and me--memory
gone of my hair soft, sweet with hyacinth--
never loved, choked in his necklace of hands.
We will translate before they
say they cannot make sense of it.