Nick De Pascal

[Everywhere around the fountains, birds]

Everywhere around the fountains, birds—

Tender watchers of human dramas—unfold

Themselves in percussive waves, a sound

Like a thousand newspapers crumpling.

Let that sound and their bursts of life unravel

Human time into skeins of bright yarn to guide

Us through the maze of some gray architect’s

Dream of granite, grimy modernity. Woe!

To the killer of birds whose robbery deafens us

One and all to music, blinds us to the fluid

Movement of mercy in the start and eyes,

To the frank gaze of a creature without guile.

In its death, the planet shudders in a paroxysm

Of loss, mourning the blood-tipped feathers

As only a mother knows how—silent, screaming

Age-stiffened fingers arranged like talons:

An elm branch weighted with snow, a gash

Of sudden moonlight on the mountains,

The indulgent blue certitude in the bird’s

Sphere, the orbit and migration our bodies

Make despite the metallic, murderous clang

Forever drowning out the natal sound

We yearn to relearn and hear, blood

Drumming the genetic code in our ears.

In Bocca Al Lupo

I envy you crescent moon

With your dark parts neatly

Hidden beneath the gauze 

Of a flimsy housedress.

Old woman, your kerchief

Drawn over black curls gone

White—you are all Italian,

Sicilian or Neapolitan in

Your dark, impudent gaze,

Your color changing with your

Moods and the attentions

Of the sun. I envy you

And your movement, your

Orbit, constant and distance

A face always there but mostly

Ignored, until some lover

Or murderer calls upon you

For guidance or surrender–

A lunatic to ask for help from

A spinning rock, but just look

At your effect on the tides,

The waves, the waters pulling

And pushing us, first towards

Then away from the dream,

The death that you’ve prepared

For us. Symbol of sleep, of sex,

Of hidden, sinful lusts, of madness

Mercy, charity, the hope for something

Larger than us, which encircles us

As we encircle it in layers of needs

And desires we peel back each night

Between the sheets, our hair

Entangled on the pillows, our sour

Breaths as simple and solid as 

Timepieces fashioned for the wrists

Of gods. We have no weapons

With which to fend you off, the sleep

Seducing us to dream, to wish,

To sigh, to hope, fulfilled or not,

With the lot we’ve drawn.

Thinking About Petrarch’s Laura

Each word spoken by lovers

Everywhere is a variation

On the same theme. There are

No virgin words the world over—

Each line of a letter, each muffled

Sigh or moan is as if predestined

By the gods of love. The heart

Has no secret, no free will of its own.

It repeats, though it beats in new

Chests, the prayers and pleas

Of ten thousand years, refined like ore,

Honed like steel by the ages of lovers

Birthed, dead, and reborn awaking

To the blood, seeing a symmetrical face,

A dark look, a hand’s caress, and saying,

Despite anything, I choose you.


To decode money’s mute alphabet—

Sighs and signs—

Believe in death and its nature

As separate or community,

Encumbrance of flesh on the soul.

Take the tongue’s inventory,

A true and accurate accounting

Of our market value, what

Has come to knowledge naked

And prostrate before the appraising

Gods. What is language? Gold

Thread, invisibly spun into the tapestry

Of sky, of dirt. Come unto money

As an acolyte—attachment

And matrimony. Tarnished thread

Of alphabet, cipher, code—

Translate the morning into quantifiable

Bullion, the dawn into paper

Currency, the bird song into coinage.

To live is credit, each hour

A debit balanced against destiny’s pen

In red or black, each second

A columned mark against existence.

Don’t Die for Wall Street

Snow pelts us like songs

From the distant past, a dirty

Gauze covering old wounds.

When will we lift our eyes

And our voices in a great static

Murmur of humanity.

One by one they call us into

Boardrooms to confirm their existence

And necessity, to convince us

Of the efficacy of their cures

And theorems, tried and tested

On the unreal bodies of the masses.

When will we lift our eyes

And weapons towards the necessary

Blue of reality. Winter of tombs,

Spring of struggle. A brass key

In the pocket of the people. A raw

Row of incandescent lovers, workers,

Mothers, children advancing 

In the breath of purple morning. Cry

Out in anger, in pain, in the fading

Numbness, the nerves exposed

By the struggle, the fluid movement

Of limbs and garments, in the finality

Of forever, goodwill floating like

Pollen in the stilled air of eternal

Human bodies, embraces.

Nick DePascal lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife and son where he teaches English. His first book, Before You Become Improbable, was published by West End Press. His poems have appeared online and in-print in many fine journals, such as Narrative, Prairie Schooner, Superstition Review, TAB, The Los Angeles Review, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Vinyl, and more.