by Carolyn Oliver
In the unholy light
stripping the horizon bare
the poets eat oranges and olives,
the kind Donne grew a taste for in Cádiz.
I didn’t think the end
would come so bright, says Leonard
in that voice like smoke settled in rafters
or a rockslide paused. At his touch, oranges melt.
Out of golden lines
at last, Donne nods, cleaning
his oily fingers on a bit of shroud.
He pours them both another ruby glass.
From where they sit—
could be a pulpit, or a tower—
they watch the slow sky of beaten gold
collapse, like a high note held until it thins.
World drunk and bottle dry,
they are two rakish hats receding
into the dark. Leonard lets slip a bit of peel.
Like a lover or a saint, it falls forever on its knees.