To the Rock on My Desk

Four new poems from the writer's manuscript-in-progress.

Giorgio Morandi, Natura morta (Still Life), 1952. Oil on canvas; 21 3/8 x 23 3/8 in. (54.29 x 59.37 cm), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Purchase, by exchange, through the bequest of Elise S. Haas © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

Photo: Ben Blackwell

The following is an excerpt from Clare Rossini’s manuscript-in-progress.

To the Rock on My Desk

The trees sort-of talk, Rock. Not you.
The rain’s damp chatter inflates to the tirade of storm.
But you, Rock—it’s shocking

how silent you seem.
You could be suffering bereavement, nursing a scar.
Or all riled up with extasis

like one of those mystics
I prayed to as a girl,
their bodies flaming as the spirit streamed through.

Orpheus plucked his lyre
and the stones came rolling.
Haven’t I strummed these stanzas with sufficient élan

to rouse your camouflaged heart?
Go ahead, Rock. Eke out a nicker, a squawk, a sharp
cri de coeur. Sing.

Klee's World

You negotiated the waves, Rock.
Then retired to my desk
to anchor its northern provinces. Your granite suit?

Yes, a bit staid.
Yet you’re endearing
in your restraint, who does not collude or acquire,

merge or liquidate, but seem nonetheless okay
with your status as a thing
that daily suffers the assault of lamplight,

and later, through the midnight window, starlight’s
Klee’s word, Schweleicht,

“heavylight,” seems right for you. Palm-sized, fixed
in place, but in your perfect shape,
lifting into air.


Your inertness is convenient, Rock,
your blankness-in-waiting,
ready to acquire whatever thought

I ask you to take on, what cockleshells
of the heart. You can’t
shake me off, can’t unionize

or complain—I’m your Caesar, Rock,
and you, my conquered province.
It seems you have

little to say about your situation.
Or it is only that I don’t yet
hear your voice? Just as I’m deaf

to the grieving of the canyon’s river
as it dries to silt, the moans
of the drought-struck tree.

The Painter and the Fascist

Master of the sugar crock, inquisitor of the vase, Morandi
would take the commission,

your grayish white, Rock,
as you hunker here on my desk, deep in conversation
with my coffee mug.

Yes, the painter who briefly admired El Duce, Morandi
would touch in
your black flecks

as if quelling the claptrap of the goosestep, would see
in your soft undertones
the erasure of salute. Morandi, poet

of cracker tins,
who painted each shadow
like a poultice, as if to draw out the toxin of his shame.

Giorgio Morandi, 1890-1964

Change the frequency.
Subscribe to Broadcast