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A mid an "explosion in the interest of poetry nationwide" (The New York Times), The Best American Poetry 2000 delivers one of the finest volumes yet in this renowned series. Guest editor Rita Dove, a distinguished figure in the poetry world and the second African-American poet ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, brings all of her dynamism and well-honed acumen to bear on this project. Dove used a simple yet exacting method to make her selections: "The final criterion," she writes in her introduction, "was Emily ...
A mid an "explosion in the interest of poetry nationwide" (The New York Times), The Best American Poetry 2000 delivers one of the finest volumes yet in this renowned series. Guest editor Rita Dove, a distinguished figure in the poetry world and the second African-American poet ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, brings all of her dynamism and well-honed acumen to bear on this project. Dove used a simple yet exacting method to make her selections: "The final criterion," she writes in her introduction, "was Emily Dickinson's famed description — if I felt that the top of my head had been taken off, the poem was in." The result is a marvelous collection of consistently high-quality poems diverse in form, tone, style, stance, and subject matter. With comments from the poets themselves illuminating their poems and a foreword by series editor David Lehman, The Best American Poetry 2000 is this year's must-have book for all poetry lovers.
Ode to the Lost Luggage Warehouse at the Rome Airport
Until you've visited the lost luggage warehouse
at the Rome airport in August, you have not lived,
the Mediterranean sun insinuating itself
into the inner sucking marrow of your bones,
roasting your epidermis like a holiday bird.
A goose, upon reflection, would be the fitting
analogy. You hear the faint sizzling of the fat
under your skin, organs grilling, brain singed
as you walk to the guardhouse and show the uniformed
sentinel your paper that certifies you have indeed
lost your bag. You gaze at his amazing hat with plumes
tinted maroon and gold while he scrutinizes your clutch
of ragged forms, signed by Signor Nardo Ferrari,
minor functionary with the state airline
at the ufficio in Florence, who has confided
in beautiful English he will retire at the end
of the month and devote himself to the cultivation
of vegetables and fruit, a noble endeavor,
but you suspect he'll not be leaving his lush paradiso
to iron out your petty problems, for you have come
in pursuit of your bag, supplicant on a holy quest to retrieve
that which is your own, or was once your own,
the dresses, coat, boots, and intimate et cetera,
nothing priceless, no treasures as such, but dear to you,
especially the black coat you bought in Paris
in a decrepit building below Sacré-Coeur,
going with Mimi after lunch, giving the secret password,
hearing the answering hiss, walking up four flights
of stairs to a room filled with ugly clothes,
one divine coat, now lost in the dark regions
of this Italian underworld, you hope, for if not here,
it's apparently nowhere, and this warehouse is a warren
of high-ceilinged rooms with thousands of bags stacked
on metal shelves, precariously piled backpacks
with scurf from Katmandu, Malmö, Khartoum, Köln, Kraków,
Istanbul, Reims in France or Francia in italiano,
chic makeup cases, black bags like the suitcases of doom,
hard-shelled portmanteaus like turtles (soft parts
incognito, mating in tandem), briefcases, carpet bags,
19th-century trunks with straps and buckles,
and you see a woman, molto dolorosa, in latex gloves,
a surgeon delving, methodically, in a suitcase
filled with Japanese snacks -- arare, dried squid, rice candy
wrapped in thin edible paper, red and green jellied
sweets -- recognized from your childhood in Hawai'i, and amid
the conglomerazione of heat, memory, and rage you imagine
a Japanese man, thinking, I'm going to Italy, but the food,
I'll hate it, then packing his favorites: the sublime
shredded mango of blessed memory, cracked plum, dried peas,
and you think of Sei Sho-nagon, supercilious court lady
in 10th-century Japan because you are reading her Pillow Book,
a record of things that disgust or please her
and you whip your kimono around and say,
"Things I adore about Rome: the lingerie stores
for nuns with their fifties bulletproof brassieres
and other medieval undies; the floor of St. Peter's
with its imperialistic measurements of the lesser cathedrals
of the world, St. Paul's in London, the Milan cathedral;
Caravaggio's Bacchus and Madonna of Loreto.
Things that disgust me in August: backpacks with cheese,
child carriers imbedded with the scum of mashed
bananas and cereal, petroleum-laced breezes
from jet exhaust, the color navy blue." Your Italian
is meager but the denizens of this particular realm
of hell are courteous if lethargic and show you
that the bags are stacked by month:
agosto, luglio, giugno, but that's as far
as they go. No Joe DiMaggio or before. To be
anywhere else is all you want. You hate your clothes,
no coat's worth the flames licking your feet, but
you take a careful waltz through the months,
and find nothing in the midst of so much.
The whole long way back to Florence, while the gorgeous
panorama of the countryside flies by,
you have a caffè, try to read, but a few seats down
a child screams, hysterical with fatigue,
and you see his face with its sticky impasto of snot,
candy and tears, and you think of all your losses,
those past and the ones to come, your own death,
il tuo morto, which makes the loss of a French coat,
shoes, and a few dresses seem ridiculous.
You think of your arrival in Florence, the walk home
from the station past the Duomo, your husband's hands,
his kisses and the dinner you'll eat, prosciutto
and melone, perhaps, some ravioli in a restaurant
near the Sant'Ambrogio market, you'll buy a new coat
for winter, an Italian coat, il soprabito,
one more beautiful than the one lost. That's the way
your life will go, one day after another,
until you begin your kamikaze run toward death.
It makes you sick to think of it until you begin
to get used to the idea. I'd better get busy,
you think, enjoy life, be good to others,
drink more wine, fill a suitcase with arare,
dried squid because when you leave home anything can happen.
You may be caught in a foreign country one day,
without money, clothes or anything good to eat,
and you'll have to try that stinky ravioli,
brine-soaked pig knuckles, poached brains quivering
on a wooden platter, tripe, baked ear wax,
fried grasshoppers, ant cakes, dirt soufflés,
and though it seems impossible, they could prove
delicious or at the very least nourishing,
so don't make a fool of yourself, and one day
you may join Signor Ferrari in his bosky Eden.
Everyone will be there God, Jesus and Mary,
your mother and father, even your pain-in-the-ass sister
who got everything. Heaven, you hate it:
the conversation's boring, and everyone's so sane,
so well-adjusted. And it's cold. Heaven should be warm,
a bit like Tahiti, so you're furious, and then you see
your sister, and she's not cold because she's wearing
your French coat, but you're not in heaven, you're on a train,
going faster, it seems, as you approach Florence.
You're in a muddle, glum, have nothing to show
for your day but a headache and a blister
on your heel. You want the train to crash,
blow you to kingdom come. You want your mother
to kiss you, call you Baby, Darling; you'd sell
your soul for some shredded mango or dried plum.
from Five Points
Copyright © 2000 by David Lehman
Foreword by David Lehman
Introduction by Rita Dove
Kim Addonizio, "Virgin Spring"
Pamela Alexander, "Semiotics"
A. R. Ammons, "Shot Glass"
Julianna Baggott, "Mary Todd on Her Deathbed"
Erin Belieu, "Choose Your Garden"
Richard Blanco, "Mango, Number 61"
Janet Bowdan, "The Year"
Grace Butcher, "Crow Is Walking"
Lucille Clifton, "Signs"
Billy Collins, "Man Listening to Disc"
Jim Daniels, "Between Periods"
Linh Dinh, "The Most Beautiful Word"
Gregory Djanikian, "Immigrant Picnic"
Denise Duhamel, "Incest Taboo"
Christopher Edgar, "Birthday"
Karl Elder, "Alpha Images"
Lynn Emanuel, "Walt. I Salute You!"
B. H. Fairchild, "Mrs. Hill"
Charles Fort, "We Did Not Fear the Father"
Frank X. Gaspar, "Seven Roses"
Elton Glaser, "And in the Afternoons I Botanized"
Ray Gonzalez, "For the Other World"
Jennifer Grotz, "The Last Living Castrato"
Thom Gunn, "The Dump"
Mark Halliday, "Before"
Barbara Hamby, "Ode to the Lost Luggage Warehouse at the Rome Airport"
Forrest Hamer, "Goldsboro Narratives"
Brenda Hillman, "Air for Mercury"
Marsha Janson, "Considering the Demise of Everything"
Mark Jarman, "Epistle"
Patricia Spears Jones, "Ghosts"
Rodney Jones, "Plea for Forgiveness"
Donald Justice, "Ralph: A Love Story"
Olena Kalytiak Davis, "Six Apologies, Lord"
David Kirby, "At the Grave of Harold Goldstein"
Carolyn Kizer, "The Oration"
Lynne Knight, "The Muse of the Actual"
Yusef Komunyakaa, "The Goddess of Quotas Laments"
Thomas Lux, "Henry Clay's Mouth"
Lynne McMahon, "We Take Our Children to Ireland"
W. S. Merwin, "The Hours of Darkness"
Susan Mitchell, "Lost Parrot"
Jean Nordhaus, "Aunt Lily and Frederick the Great"
Mary Oliver, "Work"
Michael Palmer, "I Do Not"
Paul Perry, "Paris"
Carl Phillips, "'All art...'"
Robert Pinsky, "Samurai Song"
Donald Platt, "History & Bikinis"
Stanley Plumly, "Kunitz Tending Roses"
Lawrence Raab, "Permanence"
Thomas Rabbitt, "The Beach at Falmouth Heights, Summer, 1952"
Mary Jo Salter, "Au Pair"
Rebecca Seiferle, "Welcome to Ithaca"
Brenda Shaughnessy, "Postfeminism"
Laurie Sheck, "from Black Series"
Reginald Shepherd, "Semantics at Four P.M."
Richard Siken, "The Dislocated Room"
Cathy Song, "Mother of Us All"
Gary Soto, "Chit-Chat with the Junior League Women"
Gabriel Spera, "In a Field Outside the Town"
A. E. Stallings, "Asphodel"
Susan Stewart, "Wings"
Adrienne Su, "The English Canon"
Pamela Sutton, "There Is a Lake of Ice on the Moon"
Dorothea Tanning, "No Palms"
Natasha Trethewey, "Limen"
Quincy Troupe, "Song"
Reetika Vazirani, "Rahim Multani"
Paul Violi, "As I Was Telling David and Alexandra Kelley"
Derek Walcott, "Pissarro at Dusk"
Richard Wilbur, "Fabrications"
Susan Wood, "Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair"
John You, "Borrowed Love Poems"
Dean Young, "The Infirmament"
Contributors' Notes and Comments
Magazines Where the Poems Were First Published
The Best American Poetry of the Twentieth Century