The Bullet Hole in the Twelfth-Street Door
(reprinted from The Holyoke)
It sprawls from the perfect circle
at its center like a star spreading
in the thick glass of the door.
Sight along it and it frames the shabby street
with its surprised mouth, a constant O
of quiet rage, outrage, the arbitrary
punctuation hurled from the alley or
the heavy-throated passing car
on a lightless morning.
But now sunlight issues through
this webbed fissure, the lean street
is raked with the groan of buses,
the students pass up and down tiled halls
bathed in weary light.
A star, then, yes. A hole in
the fabric, the firmament, the random
message from another world,
light years beyond, the other side.
Listen and the world hisses
at the crystal bruise.
What’s to become of us?
Who are these aliens at the gates?
The curriculum ticks away
like an immense clock
and does not answer, for it is possible
that the world in mind, and therefore
all the worlds might balance
precariously on a single thought.
It is time for classes to begin.
Perhaps we are close now
to a great and final revelation
as the posters on the kiosk tell us
in smug Roman letters, but just now
see how the city pushes its common light
upon the glass, the dazzling spider
projected yellow on the far wall
above the gathered heads.
The Olive Trees
(reprinted from Night of a Thousand Blossoms)
View a video of the poet reading
In the campus courtyard, in the center of the oldest building
of all the old Spanish buildings, among the white
stuccoed walls, among the ochre tiled roofs, the olive trees
are preparing to leave this world. They are dropping
the dark boles of their olives. They are lightening their burden
as if they might straighten their scarred backs. And the olives
are everywhere under the feet of the young girls and
the young boys and under the shoes of the old men
who are stooped with the weight of their books: olives
like black stars or black fish, staining the brick, drawing
the gnats and the resolute sparrows. The olives are bitter.
You cannot eat them. Here in the sun, on the weathered
bench, I cannot think how Claudius Caesar could have survived
alone on the secret olives he plucked from his trees, when he knew
his wife had poisoned his meals for weeks on end. Yet he outlasted
her resolve. That is the story. But these olives are bitter and
you cannot eat them. And where can they think they are
going, these bent, decrepit trees? See how they cast away
their eyes and ears. And the young, crushing them under
their soft, light feet, and the old, crushing them under
their heavy heels. These trees! See how they think they
have had enough of the earth? See how their shadows
are merely lace, how they leave the morning sun unperturbed?
See how they ready themselves over and over for a new life?
BIO: Frank X. Gaspar is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently, A Field Guide to the Heavens (Brittingham Prize 1999) and Night of a Thousand Blossoms (Alice James Books, 2004—named by Library Journal as one of the twelve best poetry collections of the year). He is the recipient of numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes, and a California Arts Council Fellowship. His poetry is widely anthologized and appears in Best American Poetry of 1996 and 2000. His novel Leaving Pico (Hardscrabble Books 1999) was a Barnes and Noble Discovery Award winner, a Borders Book of Distinction, and won the California Book Award for First Fiction. Born in Provincetown, Mass. he now lives in Southern California.