April 13, 2017

Dante Di Stefano

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, 2017

I’ll spend it sequestered in my classroom
in upstate New York, watching the rain sheet
the asphalt on the street below, holding
the little ladder inside the apple

of a poem my students are climbing,
holding steady whatever equipment
they can carry to trim the branches back
in there. We teachers are supposed to say

keep climbing, rocket higher, clamber up,
knock loose the shale of your misconceptions,
but some days it is hard not to dwell in
the knuckles’ ache of whatever bad news

unfolds and flits and flits from screen to screen.
Some days the smell of chalk dust betrays us.
Some days the scent of lilac spells despair.
Some days, children, I want to build with you

a world less rickety, spinning slower,
jagged and pinkish at the horizon,
ricocheted with uncompromised shining,
an orchard inside a seed the wind clips out

into the heart of the heart of a field,
which is the endless golden field inside
your own wild, shrewd, dubious, strange, greening,
teenage hearts and lungs exhaling amen,

and blessing me now in my middle age.
As gorgeously unseen as the new moon,
we’ll sing from the apple’s interior;
together, children, we will choir these bones.

Poets Respond
April 13, 2017

[download audio]

__________

Dante Di Stefano: “I teach 10th and 12th Grade English. This poem is for my students during National Poetry Month.” (website)

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February 22, 2015

Dante Di Stefano

ELEGY FOR PHILIP LEVINE

If you’re old enough to read this you know
what work isn’t; it isn’t in poems
or in the screed a screen door delivers
when it opens and bangs shut on your thoughts
of childhood. You might even agree that
the opening salvo of “West End Blues”
matters more than anything you could write
in seven lifetimes, but so what, my friend.
Out of burlap sacks, out of kiss my ass,
we say goodbye as the factories close,
and our amber waves of grain have become
yellow lines in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
However your life unfolded, it was
an enormous yes, gathering milkweed,
sweet will, winter words, dust, and red carnations
to scatter on the graves of dictators
as an imprecation and a warning.
Now America shackles amendments
to tailpipes and all the bluebirds’ windpipes
are cut to whistling so long or “Dixie.”
Our love, your rose’s many thorns, the dew
that won’t wait long enough to stand your wren
a drink, the no one who listened to wind
speak its new truth to the moon—all are gone,
jacketed in a guttural moan off
the coast of a distant Ellis Island.
What actually took place is now lost
in the mythologies of families,
yoking stories to the dinner table,
aproning them there into immense sails,
beat in time to the pulse felt at the wrist.
We’ll never waken on a world again
where your Detroit of ’48 will be
carried and transmuted—those oily floors,
those fathers departed in fifth autumns,
those torn into light and underbellied
in stone, those cartwheels into early dusk
now become a poem with no ending.

Poets Respond
February 22, 2015

[download audio]

__________

Dante Di Stefano: “I hope that there will be many poems that honor the memory of Philip Levine, who died on February 14th. This is my one.”

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