Three Poems by Arturo Desimone


Sole / Mare

Mare Nostrum, Costa Nostra,
no Mary–
but the dark-skinned Shulamite
of Abyssinia,
on a holy raft,
craven and aghast–
Now it is September.
The fates of people drowning in the sea,
keep no calendars–
a diary written with the salted tongue
upon a body,
doused and famished like a monk’s,
here where celibacy and conception are made
And their drowning sum–driven by treasuries,
Ministries of Culture and Plastic Surgery–
gives a press conference to the birds.Flamingo soars
a twig of sugarcane in its talons:
vision, as if to warn those rafters,
of another route once taken,
to more Westwards fairy-lands.
Speculation: more ironic is the harm
done by the irony that lives in between
the chatter, than what falls
between the ships
and the moving rubber cylinders of floats–
heavier than unleaded gasoline,
meant to supervise those who are destitute,
by the land, the sea–
The salt constructs its own castle,
its terra firma in the body of the drinker:
rid of wine, and made sober
by light
and stars and not a curtain for miles.


How the First Strangers met the Coast-Guard

The maritime guards stopped
the half-naked,
very tall animal-headed strangers
on their boats,
asked them “Show your papers, please.”
They answered: “All we have are these roses.
Yellow and red, given us, a gift:
once, our adorers showered these upon us,
from the earth below, shot them
from the first catapults men made
to launch pure prayer
up into the clouds fecund.
“But the seeds hit us in our faces,
wounding our stricken sleep.
“The throwers expected our thanks.
Flowers were carried, to our mouths
in our sleep,
by the bearers, hoping flowers of inedible gold
would not descend, sinking back into the world,
that the shadows of the roots
would end in us.”
The guards brandished their weapons, lifting them from the
hilt: guns shone
like their aero-dynamo-sunglasses,
shaven human heads, dull between touch-screens of their
phones all
bright iridescences, worn by opaqued minds of
“What you are asking for,
could be done, without any weapon
of titanium or steel or lead,
without muscle,
on love-borne
waxwing-winds, maybe,
and without any of you enacting
vapid designs,
tinkering in defiance of us,
and our plans for your present
and future omni-mud” the gods went on, saying
things gods say.
”Remove the animal masks” echoed the police academy
as they called in higher-ranking managerial levels
of inter-divisional security
and other devils that trample waves
and taxless winds.
The coast-guard centurions
called for backup, on their pink plastic
hand-held radios.
The gods answered— But these are our faces.
Only angels tear off their own heads
Every morning, when it is cool they do it
down by the lake



On a bus to the ruins of Sounio, outside Athens
The tourists from American colleges nibble ginger,
for their seasickness,
and disembark, speaking into their phones,
a turbid yawn– long as the bus;
they wear earphones like stethoscopes, sonogram measuring
their own
hearts to check for new residents;
songs used as waxen ear-plugs.
One passenger, who I thought Greek
until he opened his mouth,
talks, haranguing himself
with the device required in order to justify talking to
Videographs himself, to prove
it is not an Oneiros-dream;
pirouettes the second he steps
out the bus, transforms
into a sports forecaster, with the Temple
Of Poseidon as set background,
he narrates his invisible sojourn
to his relatives back home in Oklahoma
or in Wisconsin: as if to see alone would burn fabric of
one’s precious web,
conscionable sin.
He is not the land: he is the land-rover.
A labrador retriever, a St Bernard.
The Americans do their best Neil
Armstrong at every moonscape
made by earth and men.
I walk the steps to Sounio, overlooking
Mediterranean sea, I miss the penultimate bus back.
Chatterers go like so much flotsam slid.
I steal a smooth white rock from there.
I bring no photograph, but a warrior-poet
comrade from Peru,
worshipper of sun and stones,
asked to bring him a rock from there.
So I robbed Poseidon,
picked a smooth and white stone,
clearly rubbed for luck by ancient hands
of cobblers and fondlers, glittery,
sans petroglyph:
robbed a gift-brick from Poseidon himself.
At least I did not go to Sounio with eyes shut
and ear-drums full of camera celluloid acid,
un-deafened to the movementof ocean that crushes the
camera obscura walls
of dark microfilm.
Ocean caresses marble shards,
smooths the jagged ridges of beer-bottles
once broken to use as murder weapons, then
ditched into the maelstrom of a natural destroyer/
safekeeper of

I am a scoundrel, taking no pictures I cannot Counterfeit.
I earth /
I unearth.


Poems first published in Poems of the Mare Nostrum, Costa Nostra, by Arturo Desimone. Published in 2019 by Hesterglock. Republished with permission of the author. 

About the Author:

Arturo Desimone, was born in 1984 on the island of Aruba which he inhabited until the age of 22, when he emigrated to the Netherlands. He relocated to Argentina while working on a long fiction project about childhoods, diaspora, islands and religion. Desimone’s articles, poetry and fiction pieces have previously appeared in , Círculo de Poesía (Spanish) Island (Tasmania) Sydney Review of BooksNew Orleans Review and OpenDemocracy. He writes a blog about Latin American poetry for the Drunken Boat poetry review.