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canti

Tinsel Tinsel
for M.C.

A fool for love, an inner refugee,
sees a peacock strutting in the birdhouse
high on a branch and fanning
the broadest, most articulated fan tail
the fool for love has ever seen.
“Come fly with me!” the fool calls to the peacock,
but the bright bird keeps strutting up and down
above the fool for love there on the ground.

A blackbird comes and settles on his shoulder.
His pecks are rough caresses as he asks him,
“Why do you keep staring at that tree?”
“Peacock!” the fool for love cries, but the blackbird
caws back, “Fool! Since when do peacocks fly?
Look around the birdhouse: see us towhees,
wrens and jays and blackbirds
flittering and swooping—
what we always do for free.”

All the fool can do is stare.
His neck is permanently out of whack;
he doesn’t care.
But one fine day in slanted light
he glances up as usual and spies
not his darling bird of paradise
but a hank of Christmas tinsel
trailing in the birdhouse breeze . . .

Even so he often murmurs,
“Peacock!” in his haunted dreams.
Ask me why, the reason’s simple:
he’s a fool for love, blackbirds
are blackbirds, peacocks peacocks,
tinsel tinsel.

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Jonathan Galassi is a poet, translator, and editor. A newly revised edition of his translation of Eugenio Montale’s Collected Poems 1926-1954 has just been published.