A little light, like a rushlight
to lead back to splendour.
-Ezra Pound, Canto CXVI
Even in the floating cemetery at San Michele,
I remember I was raised with certain traditions.
I know to spill tobacco for the dead,
to stain milk with nutmeg for those without rest,
to steep bay leaves in hot water to coax out splinters.
And the first thing archaeologists learn is to get tetanus shots
every five years, the membranes of forearms and knees
soaking up minerals like slow-sipping sponges
each time we kneel before the past. Here, I remember
what I've loved well as he invokes my name canto after canto.
I call back knowing EZRA means HELP, never able to untangle
the plea from the offer, and wish I had a cigarette
to split over his stone head, the dirt of his grave staining my nails sienna;
and there have been enough seasons between his death
and my arrival that I know it is a poet I absorb through my skin.