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About this Poem 

“I imagine everyone knows how it feels when a certain illusion by which he or she has lived is suddenly lifted, and the consequent combination of ecstasy and terror.  ‘Hermitage’ was an attempt to get across a moment like that in my own life.  As for those blackbirds, I can’t argue with Whitman—the thrush’s song is as gorgeous as it gets—but I’ve always been stopped in my tracks by the singing of the red-winged blackbird, that song with its hard edges and sweeping geometries, which seems to say something about the logic and the chaos of it all.”
Joseph Fasano

Hermitage

It’s true there were times when it was too much
and I slipped off in the first light or its last hour
and drove up through the crooked way of the valley

and swam out to those ruins on an island.
Blackbirds were the only music in the spruces,
and the stars, as they faded out, offered themselves to me

like glasses of water ringing by the empty linens of the dead.
When Delilah watched the dark hair of her lover
tumble, she did not shatter. When Abraham

relented, he did not relent.
Still, I would tell you of the humbling and the waking.
I would tell you of the wild hours of surrender,

when the river stripped the cove’s stones
from the margin and the blackbirds built
their strict songs in the high

pines, when the great nests swayed the lattice
of the branches, the moon’s brute music
touching them with fire.

And you, there, stranger in the sway
of it, what would you have done
there, in the ruins, when they rose

from you, when the burning wings
ascended, when the old ghosts
shook the music from your branches and the great lie

of your one sweet life was lifted?

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Fasano. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Fasano. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Joseph Fasano

Joseph Fasano

Joseph Fasano is the author of three collections of poems, Vincent (Cider Press Review 2015), Inheritance (Cider Press Review, 2014), and Fugue for Other Hands (Cider Press Review, 2013), winner of the Cider Press Review Book Award.

by this poet

poem

Before I watched you die, I watched the dying
falter, their hearts curled and purring in them

like kitfoxes asleep
beside their shadows, their eyes pawed out by the trouble

of their hunger. I was
humbling, Lord, like the taxidermist’s

apprentice. I said
yes, and amen, like the

2
poem

You sit at a window and listen to your father
crossing the dark grasses of the fields

toward you, a moon soaking through his shoes as he shuffles the wind
aside, the night in his hands like an empty bridle.

How long have we been this way, you ask him.
It must be ages

poem

If tonight the moon should arrive like a lost guide
crossing the fields with a bitter lantern in her hand,

her irides blind, her dresses wild, lie down and listen to her
find you; lie down and listen to the body become

the promise of no other, the sleeper in the garden
in its own arms,