Issue > Poetry
Cyrus Cassells

Cyrus Cassells

A 2019 Guggenheim fellow, Cyrus Cassells has won the National Poetry Series, a Lambda Literary Award, and a Lannan Literary Award. His 2018 volume The Gospel according to Wild Indigo was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas, translated from the Catalan, appeared in 2019. His twin 7th and 8th books, The World That the Shooter Left Us and Is There Room For Another Horse on Your Horse Ranch? (a finalist for the 2019 National Poetry Series) are forthcoming from Four Way Books. His first ever chapbook,More Than Watchmen at Daybreak, about his stay in a desert monastery, is due out from Nine Mile Books in April 2020.

Like a Bird of a More Winged World


Animula, vagula, blandula . . .
             (Little soul, charismatic vagabond . . .)

                —Hadrian's deathbed poem

  Fly from this cage, like a bird of a more winged world.

                 -Rumi


Retreating turncoat, little ally, tell me,  
What will you recall

Of the cypress-blessed earth's gravitas,
Of the jilted body's camaraderie?

Insouciant guest, more than the tangled,
Unsparing world,

Runaway bride,
With your kept-quiet lust

For God's fireworks,
Perhaps you'll garner

From a massive inner storehouse,
The match-quick memory of a cardboard

Yet weirdly imperial crown
Perched on a milliner's dummy,
           
The spell of impeccable white peaches
Hauled from fragrant Languedoc orchards,

The glimpse of a breeze-swept passerine
Heading south for sunnier Malta

In a brash swirl of sea and ilex,
In a quest for pine nuts and black cherries—

Freed from shadow-brokers, flesh, you're flight-ready,  
Vehement to learn (Animula, vagula, blandula . . .)

Emperor Hadrian's valedictory lessons,
To assess the bracelet of cities

You cherished vicariously and left  
As stainless, inviolate—
               
To salute gone-too-soon lovers,
Surrendered to swaying

Cemetery grasses
During the decimating years,

Marked by cell counts and hospices.
Even your own slim San Francisco Antinoüs—

Imagine he isn't plague-snatched,
But lesion-less, everlasting—

Soul, with your unlimited
Wingspan, your holy egress,

In concert with the sallying crow's
Go on,  

The galvanizing owl's farewell,
Sly "fingersmith,"

Unremitting rascal,
Filching a last communion wafer,

As if it were Maman's unforgettable
Holiday macaroon:

Oh, getaway soul,
You've been caught red-handed—

Fado for Xavier, The Move-Along Man


When the balmy breeze retreats,
And bound-for-glory clouds,

Crooner, love-maker, it's bitter to feel
The lie of the bullying sun's

Mock-embrace, the dispiriting hush
Of windless moments on the sloping,
   
Sun-blessed avenues and hills
Of the lyrical-no-longer city—

Listen, I loved a man who captained
A sporty, mint-green convertible

(Oh his greens were very green!)
With a manna-or-bust magic,

So I slipped in straightaway and wed
My far-ranging fool's quest to his:

Handsome sir,
What are you running from?

Turn your back to the front seat
,
Dashing Xavier commanded,

So, without further ado, I stood up,
Raising my sleeveless arms

Under the super-subtle lindens,
As if to nab a glimpse

Of his invisible nemesis, his shadowy
Goliath in the distance—

Imagine, I worshipped a man
Whose soul was akin

To a firm but scalable mountain—
A kind of slapstick earl,

With an inquisitive owl's glance,
But the allure of conquerable worlds

And mast-rich seaports,
Of kestrel-swift wanderlust

Whisked him away—

I was a lieutenant to a move-along man
Whose enduring homeland was gilded

By a lucent coast    
And a much lauded river

Where even a bald-faced lie
Had the splendor of unblemished truth,  

But Time and the wind and the river
Took him . . .

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