Saturnalia Ed Foster




         for Leonard Schwartz


(The Saturn in what follows is not Goya’s but the harvest king—the knowing, known lover whose festival December 17th was thought to mark the end of the year and in whose love, Acteon, the poem says, was reborn.)


The water in this wide canal is dark:

it hides the silt.

I think I lie within a branch reflected there

and watch your fingers hold me down.

Your hand becomes a part of my depleted sky.

Although I can’t possess, I will concede:

the hand that holds me here is wholly mine,

something you will never see nor own.


Neither absence nor wit,

but the plentiful blue of the sun.


(The one I wanted now will not go home.

This is his dance, surrounded by the pine trees in the frost.

Their resin burns, and I myself desire what I thought I’d never see.

As if beneath the sheets

his hand were turning round the sun.

Ecstatic, cold, it burns:

he is the one I watch and so am seen.)


(My brothers, all uneven words are his; the rest belong to you.

He finds himself within the abstract line, for there he cannot feel.

The hand that reaches toward his shirt can feel his touch:

feeling, as he says, is not to choose.)


Knowing nothing, nothing’s really felt, I wrongly say:

the sky is yours,

and in your sky, the sun again begins to burn.


You are alone.

The others do not call.

You build their harvest,

and in my mind, though only in my mind,

I see your fingers reach and move along the air.


O father, what color will I see within your shirt tonight?

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