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  • By Kevin Blankinship

Mediterranean Fortunes & Other Poetry

Mediterranean Fortunes

A cold, dry Mistral gallops down the Rhone,

reminding of what Dumas wrote: a count,

falsely accused, rotting between the bricks.

A second squall, the Marin, quickly swallows

Portuguese ships aiming to conquer Goa.

A Tramontane blows like the Gothic horde

that sacked Antioch and Crete, while the sultry

Sirocco heaves reddish dust—Saharan blood rain.

Santorini, that Greek sapphire among white lava,

pressed under plumes of sulfur and ash;

a flurried heap, and then silence. All this, while the

winds blast a hymn of harvested souls, empires

buried by the waves, and fated tempests that drag

down into the labyrinth deep, claiming all theirs.

Cancer Scare

A flash somewhere, then suddenly

ponds that sprout starflower and shrub,

jasmine and beard lichen, spreading white fingers.

Rustling—here comes a net of curved horns

criss-crossing against each other, sturdy,

brown scythes moving slow.

The herd stops and looks. Now the world

is calm. See—no steps. Only the wind

pushing a branch caught on another branch.

And then soft screams. They rise from

little mouths wet with mucus and tears.

The wild goats weep like a drone of hornets.

There—on the ground between grasses

and hooves, there spreads another pond.

Crimson, carmine, precious. Red sulphur

painting the dull rocks till they shine

like gold. Skinny legs set at hard

right angles, piled up unnaturally still.

Tan yellow fur ripped from skin

by a canine tooth and jaw—it dusts

the stone like fresh fallen snow.

Then, up the plain comes

the howling of hounds, a death song

kept by the beat of horses punishing stone.

Wildhorns scatter far. Back to the jasmine

and dwarf trees to cool craggy springs.

Back to hiding from the hunter. But the

hunter comes each day for a new mark.

The herd shrinks and shrinks, till one day

the wind finds only itself.

Kevin Blankinship is a professor of Arabic at Brigham Young University. His essays and poetry have appeared in The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Gingerbread House, Blue Unicorn, Wine Cellar Press, and more. Follow him on Twitter @AmericanMaghreb.

1 Comment

Feb 05, 2022

Both of these poems display a talent for imagery combined with a deftness that manages to avoid getting lost in it. Too many contemporary poems focus so intensely on imagery that they degrade into mere lists. Here we have two works that actually say something but are still packed full with stirring images. I particularly like the many facets of the Mediterranean and its long cultural history portrayed in a single sonnet, the turn shifting from its western side to its eastern.

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