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 palms and knees
soaking up minerals like 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 unravel plea
from offer—and wish I had a cigar 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’s a poet I absorb through my skin.
Dawn Manning is the author of Postcards from the Dead Letter Office. Her awards for poetry include the Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, the Edith Garlow Poetry Prize, and the San Miguel Writing Award. Her poems have been published through Crab Orchard Review, Silk Road Review, Smartish Pace, and other literary journals. In her spare time, she herds cats for a local animal rescue. When the stars align, she travels.