A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue—vowels,
One day I’ll tell your secret origins:
A, black hairy corset of dazzling flies
That boom around cruel stenches,
Gulfs of shadow; E, candor of steams and tents,
Proud glacier spears, white kings, shivers of Queen-Anne’s-lace;
I, maroons, spat blood, laughter of beautiful lips
In anger or in penitent intoxications;
U, cycles, divine vibrations of viridian oceans,
Peace of pastures seeded with animals, peace of wrinkles,
Of alchemical print on studious foreheads;
O, supreme Bugle full of strange shrill cries,
Silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:
O, the Omega, violet ray of His Eyes!
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.