Florencia Milito [Poems]

[alert type=»blue»]Editor’s note: «Color Haiku» and «Villanelle for Henry Darger» first appeared in 27 Hours, published by Kearny Street Press.[/alert]


  1. Color Haiku
  2. Villanelle for Henry Darger
  3. On Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s forest graveyard
  4. Ode to Astoria

Color Haiku

para papá, City of Hope, Los Angeles

tiny, petulant blue flame
morphs into a wren

In the hospital:
hazy sunlight, rubber trees
red, saber-toothed dreams

Remember, papá?
from walnut shells and paper
floated white sailboats

As they wheel you in
your gray oyster eyes widen
a final hurrah

In the Zen garden:
the yellow carps glide, just are
turtles, alert, watch

A single brown duck
among the carps and turtles
just drifting, drifting

Lime-green humming bird
coy, speckled sprite waltzing by
halting, in delight

Under this purple
tree, an old jacaranda
daydream of allá

Anarchists, dreamers
divining owls of Spirit,
a lone white lily

Odd, forest-green tree
the little prince’s baobab
holds me in its eye

When the moment comes
the mind, upset, numbs itself
drifting violet clouds

Sweet forgetting, wired
even of wild mauve terror
song making in birds

Lulling childhood breeze
Vivaldi’s blue violins
I succumb to sleep

City of glaciers,
windswept, a swinging blue door
a lone chair, waiting

And what of envy?
green lymphocytes waging to
no breath or avail

Oh, insanity!
yellow waking from the clocks
calling the bluff of

When you first awake
time on a white horse gallops
an old man, content

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Villanelle for Henry Darger

He carries dandelions in his head,
a whole expansive field of them.
By day a janitor, they said.

Fluffy clouds to count like sheep in bed,
glorious lions’ manes to crown the stems.
He carries dandelions in his head.

He swept and scrubbed, polished for his bread.
The children played, hid behind their mothers’ hems.
By day a janitor, they said.

At night a secret, lone mission led
to pleat the folds of sky, to stitch its gems.
He carries dandelions in his head.

A celestial housekeeper instead,
writes now among the dandelions, nibbling on their stems.
He was a janitor, they said.

No one knew he drew and wrote and read,
polished the bright moon, pleated the sky’s hem.
He carries dandelions in his head.
By day he was a janitor, they said.

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On Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Forest Graveyard

Gravity is our answer
to mortality,
the contours meant
to keep life
(and death)
at bay.
Instead of imitation
I offer you these
rolling hills
of imagination:
inchoate, emerald
winding paths
and a sense
of the cosmic,
because, yes,
this too is
a graveyard suite:
but here within
the yellow-green
womb and
rolling hills
there’s little need
for stilted suits
and mannerisms.

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Digital StillCamera

Ode to Astoria

Of the tired, petite waitress who dreams of saving enough to go back home to her mother in Cyprus, of the plastic virgins with their blue mantles, the modest, tended rose gardens, of the all-night Korean fruit stand with its purple eggplants and swan-necked, pale-green zucchinis, its piles of bright oranges and pomelos, offerings to a lonely God, lighting your way back home from the subway, of the scent of lamb roasting on a spit in a neighbor’s yard on Easter Sunday, of Wolf fumbling through a bag of unlabeled apartment keys, of the old German neighbor, an aging dandy who leaves his door ajar so as to hear some human sounds, the way others turn on the kitchen radio, the same neighbor who accosts you in the hallway to tell you—like a broken record—about the Jewish doctor who ran off with his girl, the one he never could make up his mind to marry, of the Athens café, with the old, animated Greek men smoking despite the city ordinance and talking politics, the Arab bakeries with their honeyed pistachio delicacies, the coffee house with the Egyptian men sitting in a circle on the sidewalk smoking the hookah, of the shop windows, barrels brimming with olives, dates, and almonds, of the streets too often littered with garbage, abandoned newspapers and discarded wrappers, of the shish kebab man feeding the hungry late-night bar crawlers and teenagers, driving their cars much too fast, around and around, as if trapped in the most desolate small town in Arkansas, of the hip Japanese art students always coupled and decked in Prada, of the Most Precious Blood Catholic Church, the name evocative in Spanish or Italian or Portuguese but too clinical, conjuring syringes and test tubes, in English, of the tiny Greek Orthodox church with the green copper roof where you find some stacked Russian dolls in a yard sale, a tiny, mustached wooden man nestled inside an ample Russian woman, of the N slow and rickety like an old-fashioned amusement ride, of the little kids running around in the local restaurants, wild-eyed and unsanitized, and the Brazilian fans honking all night up and down Broadway after Brazil wins the World Cup, of, ultimately, the wave of Mediterranean warmth (like an unexpected sea breeze) you felt as you stepped off the subway that afternoon you visited too soon after 9/11, at a time, the beginning of orange alerts and the anthrax scare, when the lingering smell of ashes still haunted parts of Brooklyn, when Susan Sontag was being called a traitor, when Sikhs where attacked, mistaken for Arabs, and Arabs were attacked for being Arabs, a time when politicians and the media aligned themselves with the government like perfect toy soldiers and messy, immigrant Astoria felt like the next best thing to leaving America.

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Florencia Milito

Florencia MilitoBorn in Argentina, Florencia Milito spent her early childhood in Venezuela and has lived in the U.S. since she was nine. She is a bilingual poet, essayist, and translator whose work has appeared in such publications as ZYZZYVA, Sniper Logic, Znet en Español, the Indiana Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, and 20 años: Festival Internacional de Poesía de Rosario. She was the recipient of a Hedgebrook Foundation residency and a reader at the 2011 Festival Internacional de Poesía in Rosario, Argentina. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter.