Two Poems

Mark Rudman

The problem with the women gathering
at the riverbank. Of the river Po.

The problem is the absence of other
rivers, where other versions of the same

group will congregate in several cities
at once: the Tiber is a no-brainer,

ditto the Seine, but it’s the seamless
switch to another country, another river,

the Hudson, that will set the first
blinks into action, as the same exact

events unfold, and no one is put out.
The story has them in their grip.

All these women, sharing in this concern,
and no longer alone, or as alone

as the woman who, lacking connection,
chose to drown herself rather than confront

more false fronts, mechanical smiles – and no words
could leaven her corrosive

isolation, eating her alive from the inside out,
until she was empty, hollowed out by

everything except an intolerable
gnawing, and nothing’s demoniacal

troops: a leaden heaviness that nothing
could dispel long enough to have a thought.

‘I blinked – and when my eyes opened – it reared:
A charcoal funnel, slashed with yellow streaks.
And I could hear a sound
like a train running through my rooms.
I ran from room to room,
but I was out in the open!
Winds loosed boulders
from their centuries’ old perch.
One – too close for thought.
I might have been crushed.
I knew the outboard that dropped us
on the island each morning
could in no way get back
through these livid streaks of light
as the tornado spun to sweep us all away –
Someone clambered towards me over the rocks
to say “there’s a wizard among us,”
who then announced: “If I cross myself
it will go the other way.”
He did and it did.
When I next lifted my eyes
the death cloud had taken off –
in the opposite direction!
But I could not share my relief
with Michelangelo, who’d found a safe perch
behind some rocks and kept
his camera running, enraged now
that the turnabout disrupted this once-
in-a-lifetime chance
as the tornado came within an inch
of wresting the camera out of his arms.’