After Richter 8.8

by Jeff Schiff

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters

     W.H. Auden

Driven bedrock into earth maw
     house shutter
          a glass tumbler an ashtray

of pesos on the sala floor
     we woke
          beneath heart pine lintel

cool door night vexed wide
     under flipped Orion
          returned then to sleep the sleep

of sleepers
     seperate beds dear aftershock separate rooms
          Now coffee

boil oatmeal
     ribbon with blackberry compote
          the bay filling

in portless scows
     Soon to hunt for cushioned socks
          and best to take the slighter steep

of Hector Calvo
     down pissy stairs
          to market jostle

over onions
          una malla de ajo

boxed milk ballast already in the bag
          spotty sun

particulate air
     exhaustion of wrung towels
          laundry to rack and manage

Myself I’ll soap
     and rinse for dinner
          I’ll notice rice

come to steam
     I’ll emulsify drizzle

and wine into Pomaire bowl
     radiant mustards vinegar
          atop our harvest stove

I’ll plate cheese
     cured meat olives
          that glass table

There’ll be bits of an eating life to mop
     double bag
          the garbage

to hang it on a post
     for Tuesday surely comes
          to our alley

where yes Wystan
     alley dogs patrol
          their doggy precincts

and a Chilean horse
     scratches its Chilean

against its Chilean tree

In addition to That hum to go by (Mammoth books, 2012), Jeff Schiff is the author of Mixed Diction, Burro Heart, The Rats of Patzcuaro, The Homily of Infinitude, Anywhere in this Country, and Resources for Writing About Literature. His work has appeared internationally in more than eighty periodicals, including The Alembic, Grand Street, The Ohio Review, Poet & Critic, The Louisville Review, Tendril, Pembroke Magazine, Carolina Review, Chicago Review, Hawaii Review, Southern Humanities Review, River City, Indiana Review, Willow Springs, and The Southwest Review. He has been a member of the English faculty at Columbia College Chicago since 1987.

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