Michael Shepler

Rookie (1942 / Cincinnati, Ohio)

Pavese's Last Letter To Constance Dowling, In Blood, Unfinished - Poem by Michael Shepler

“Death will come and she will have your eyes” - Pavese

3 a.m.
Hour of the razor & the knife
Beneath the locked hotel room door
Pale light from the hall yellows anciently
Her telegram lies, crumpled on the table
An origami of pain, its message, senseless

He remembers her blue eyes & bad Italian
Remembers the celluloid memory he's been forced
To live with all week:

(Even now, 'Bitter Rice' plays down the street,
Her name in lights above the giant poster of Mangano's
Earthy thighs)

He remembers each day they'd had-
Reloading them like bullets
In the smooth chambers of his mind
Those soft cocoons of love & madness

***

It's so late now it's early
If he were to lift the shade he'd see first light
Catch the edges of clouds
Like the beginning hint of a consuming fever
If he were to throw open the window he could
Lean out, mouth open
Letting the cool blue temperate air flood his lungs
As a wind soft as nowhere whispered
'Hush Hush Hush'

Instead, he turns back to the room
The room that possesses its own music
Of confusion & beguilement
Its own memories:

The unmade bed, the silk dressing gown,
Carelessly strewn clothes like the clothes of bodies
Thrown clear from accidents; lipstick, hairpins
The flutter of a clandestine whisper
Room left in haste & disarray
One she'd never come back to
A room with walls so close they'd
Grown suffocating
A room she’d had to abandon or die in

***

Once again, he's rescued by habit
Once again, he lights a cigarette, fills his pen & begins to write
& as he crafts his final sketch, it occurs to him how much he's remained
The village child, grimy faced, with skinned knees

Once again, it is the season of funerals
Once again, the slow cortege passes before his shuttered eyes
Baraldi, Predella's son-a summer of pistol shots
Suicides, & the seed planted-
Tumor with a quiet voice, three times its called to him
& twice he's resisted. Twice turned his face to the sun
Losing his obsession in hard labor

But the work is done
Putting down the pen, he gazes with hazed eyes
Toward a light in the center of the room-
She looks the way she did that afternoon
On the road toTurin. He'd taken her to
Santa Stefano, where his memories were born
With picnic baskets they’d climbed the hill past stones & wooden crosses

'I'll always remember you' she said

She looks the same way, yet he knows that he's only seeing
A ghost of light

'My heart is still with you' she'd said
Before boarding the plane to America

***

Putting down the pen, he rises, passing through
The rooms to find himself facing the wounded mirror
His hand touches the razor, fingers straying lightly
Above the blade, as if they touched strings
Sounding notes so soft not even the player can hear them

He reaches for bottle & glass-
The water tastes like cold snow
He shakes the bottle & the red pills dance
Into his hand, bright as berries fallen on cold snow
He lifts the glass & drinks again

Soon now he'll rise, soft as smoke
Passing through the open window
Silently rising into the beautiful evening


Comments about Pavese's Last Letter To Constance Dowling, In Blood, Unfinished by Michael Shepler

  • (8/4/2006 3:56:00 PM)


    thanks for this info & write. enjoyed it. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (8/4/2006 1:26:00 PM)


    Powerful, intense and hauntingly beautiful. The mood of this poem lingers like a piece of
    great music in the mind. Exceptional work.

    Regards,

    Sandra
    (Report) Reply

Read all 2 comments »



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Poem Submitted: Friday, August 4, 2006

Poem Edited: Saturday, August 21, 2010


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