Plum Summer

Black horses have a deep blue tint
to their eyes;
in the plum-dark night

they hang in the depths of sleep;
and like the sheen of an equine haunch,
the fruit’s black skin magnetizes touch, misted

veil of questions broken
by the press of my thumb.

I would bite
into this sweet, cool planet, red coal
within, right down

to the hard grooved stone
through flesh as dense
as the gallop of blood in the lungs, pulse

of the heart
within the heart, here under fetlock
and throat-latch of the Horsehead

Nebula—celestial, sanguinary,

all thirst and murmur
to savor, rivering the tongue, parting
lips too absorbed to ask,

while consuming the universe,
do I dare?

Stephen Massimilla is a poet, critic, professor, and painter. His co-authored book, Cooking with the Muse, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. His latest book, The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat, was selected in the Stephen F. Austin State University Press Prize contest. He has received the Bordighera Poetry Prize for Forty Floors from Yesterday; the Grolier Prize for Later on Aiaia; a Van Rensselaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch; an Academy of American Poets Prize; and multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. His volume Almost a Second Thought was runner-up for the Salmon Run National Poetry Book Award, selected by X.J. Kennedy. Massimilla has recent work in AGNI, American Literary Review, Barrow Street, Bellingham Review, Chelsea, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Fiction Fix, The Literary Review, Marlboro Review, Paterson Literary Review, Provincetown Arts, The Southern Poetry Review, Tampa Review, and many other journals and anthologies. He holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University and teaches literary modernism, among other subjects, at Columbia University and the New School.