Robert Stark

Umbratilis: At Formia / Untitled

Robert Stark

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Umbratilis: At Formia


Your scant dyspeptic rot outlasted

Your cell, barely, your body only just: 

Less than a week. You died a Roman 

In Pater’s sense: hieratic

Beauty & order in the conduct of life,

A body not to be outdone—


Gout—Insomnia—but who can count

The dogs & days of solitary?

Your teeth fell out—tick, tock,—

Your headache bled against the cinder-block

Eviscerating loneliness in pain

& pain in loneliness again.


Julia was unwell. Tatiana’s unctions were

Miserably bright in the unredeemed

Eons of your luxuriating horror;

No doubt the name rang out

(But this I forcibly interject:

The love-song that I could not write)


Often in your cell: Antonio, you

Alas are not the first to, at peril, show

Us something real, dead right.

Your tragedy: your fate. Your triumph

What we learned from you & didn’t learn.

Bruno, Malcolm, Herman 


Wallace with their ethic strong as Capital:

Luckier to burn out quick. 

Mumia has your strength & maybe more;

Chelsea, I worry for;

Leonard Peltier is on Death’s door:

It is time for analysis, for logistics


The prisons here are full & you were right 

Correcting Bini’s oversight: 

‘So finely-wrought a file it destroys

Thought utterly; transforms the latent God

In the seasoned olive wood

To a handle for a cobbler’s awl’—


But for this prying lexicon that in part negates 

The tautologies of the State 

& the rudimentary Fordism of all 

Our employ now; but for this

Pediment of a tradition; & for this

Surreptitious too late beginning.  





Place this:  idea of a Casino, set

Brightly in Lakes, among County Roads

O Minnesota rustic & so great I had not thought

You capable of owning this confluity:


One burned long & vigilant, songfully;

The other, perhaps, more certain

Of the wrong & right of it

Was scared & skived for days: he could not see. 


They gambled.  They gamboled:

No synchronicity

But accustomed play & the game

Would out.  They walked their dogs


Who, sour, agreed to make the most of things.

Mosquitoes kill us, more than fags or booze

We said as we lay among them, shamelessly.

& then the booze ran out.  We hit the road.


This was our sequel.  The neon snaked

As the drink caught on.  The band

Was dreadful, with no option but to attend,

Until we lost or changed the game. 


I cut now to the chase: Moorehead police

Would not permit a fifteen-mile highway stroll,

Bless!  We were united for the last time

On their watch, while they confabulated, ate.


I now have two ideas of wrath: one

Grows out of Burns, the other is this half hour

In our rented car.  Was there music?

Did the median lines float from side to side


As I recall?  Our Casino calls me now

Gaudy promise & flash & the sureness

Of leaving empty-handed: bliss

Revenant: The hit.  The miss.  



Robert Stark


Robert Stark is the author of A Middle North (some poems) and Ezra Pound's Early Verse and Lyric Tradition: A Jargoner's Apprenticeship (about some poems).  He lives in Paris with Jack, the worlds best-travelled English Cocker Spaniel.  

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