Two Poems By Daniel Fitzpatrick

The Melancholy

I set off for my own outrageous fate
beneath these dozen frustrate family
passions. (Beware this I, barker of glooms.)
I sound myself in the biographies
of madmen. Their atoms—no, their very 
quarks—belong to me. Have no appetites.
They left with the last of the cash. No needs
on credit. No credit but the swineherd’s.
My father may work till eighty. He says
he hopes he will, although he’s just now sold
his home. My wife can stumble in the dark 
with a crying child. Van Gogh’s wife would have,
he imagined, as he begged her black veil
to let him be a father to her son.
Forget all that. I’ll steam for Tahiti
with an icon of the Baptist buried
in the softening ridges of my mind
and make my indebted bed in Sheol.
What ransom can’t be paid with dance and song?
The Mariner Goes Below To Sleep

A slice of moon appears. A man descends.
He bears his constellations to his berth.
There, unveiled, they wheel and drive the shadows
from his musings. He murmurs, tosses, mounts
by dream up prick on prick of starlight. Still
some sun must swim a million years before
it bleeds the lidded flicker of his eyes.
For half his life this man has fled the shore.
He trembles at the sight of distant palms
as though the coconuts were pirates’ skulls.
His cloister is the sea, its suffering.
His peace gleams in the twilight, in the net
that trails behind the sun and draws the moon
to blur the burning shore of all we know.

Daniel Fitzpatrick is the author of the novel Only the Lover Sings. His new translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, illustrated by sculptor Timothy Schmalz, is out this year in honor of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. He lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with his wife and three children.

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