Classic Frieze in a Garage

I was walking thru the city past umber embassies 

               & pine-lined palaces
                              fat palms beside balconies
                       the heat something
                                   you could really touch

                                     the kids with cunning
                                         delinquent faces
                                  after americano sailors

            -thinking of nerval    tends-moi le pausilippe
                  et la mer d’Italie & living
                          on the hill         posillipo          under
               a gangster’s dancefloor
                                                   among goldfinches

                                         on the bay of naples
                                                  in a stone cottage
                               over tufa caves in which the sea
                               crashed in winter     sweet gerard
                                                one hundred years
                       have made the desolation greater

     the tower is really down & the sun blackened
                     beyond despair      the loudspeaker drowns
                              finches     cliffs      caves
                                      all in the hands of racketeers
        yet i have passed my time dreaming thru this
                              fantastic wreck

walking thru incendiary alleys of crowded laundry
                              with yellow gourds in windows &
                              crumbling masonry of wars
                                    human corruption
                              so thick and hopeless that i laugh

when suddenly i saw among the oil & greasy rags
                               & wheels & axles of a garage
                                the carved nude figures of
                                        a classic frieze
                                there above the dismantled
                                parts of cars!

perfect! & how strange! garage
               swallows sarcophagus!
mechanic calmly spraying
                    paint on a
observed in turn by lapith and centaur!

                           of unthinking flesh!
                                       frank thighs! eyes
                              of aphrodite!

the myth of the mediterranean
           was in that garage
      where the brown wiry
youths saw nothing unusual
                   at their work
    among dead heroes & gods

    but i saw hermes in the rainbow
            of the dark oil on the floor
                             reflected there
           & the wild hair of the sybil
                   as her words bubbled
mad and drowned
                               beneath  the motor’s roar  

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