Allison SeayUSAWriting2013
Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize Winner, with Persea Books

My time at Civitella Rainieri has been one of the most important times of my life, not only as a writer, but as a human being alive in the world. I feel more alive if not reborn, renewed, and trust my work will be stronger because of that—perhaps not right away, perhaps it will take a lifetime to digest this experience.


When I first arrived I was too overwhelmed to write a poem, to do anything but stare out of my window or walk around in a kind of dream. But by the second week I had a fairly regular schedule and a luxury of hours to read, write, and think about poems. While I did produce several new poems, the most writing I did here has been in the form of a hybrid travel journal, which has consumed me. In it I have recorded the food I have eaten, the flowers I have seen, the birds, bits of conversation, things I have learned about the walled cities around me, anything I can remember from the long day. I like to think that some of this rather maniacal documenting of experience will translate into poems eventually.


There is almost too much beauty here to bear. The largest part of my days has been spent trying to manage the joy, to memorize the beauty, to write it down before it vanishes.



The Invisible Him


We spent all day walking in circles around the shallow pond
watching fish pluck from the surface the bloated bread,
the wild geese measuring a safe distance.


I dreamed last night (all my life)
of this not extraordinary day


and like others sometimes will admit
I did not know how much I loved


until it was gone abruptly.


It is not that I think we can all live forever
but that we should never die.
There is a difference.


For example it is the difference when
the fog at dusk confuses what is pond and what is bank,
confuses the moving from the still, confuses even


where my sadness could be
lost inside the crepuscular light.


I am certain where it was inside him—


the living tumor
a sadness in the liver.


If I concentrate painfully
I can almost see the impossible


invisible him, see through the burial mound of grass


and moss and sedum and through the slate and soil
through the roots and further


down down to the blue veins down
even to the vermillion border of his thin little lips


down to the internal (eternal) him
the despicable organs.


I say you were betrayed
the whole pointless thing is never over


and it is always a living death sure as I am
now (as I was not then)


some things do last infinitely—
it was love


though I did not have this voice to say it.


Inside the Well


I have carried everything down and am talking
to you from the inside
It is late the dogs are baying for you


I have carried down my life
the fields of corn a grove of olive trees
sky I have brought the entire country of us


down into the well so that from here
there is no view except the light as a pin prick
precise as my memory in the dark


All I need is the climate of you
and you are the climate of well you are
the water and stone of well


In my mind we are as we were for the last time
when I wore the blue dress
and we sat among the bright faced poppies


and decided it was the end
beside us the uninhabited fields field after field
into the seeable distance field after field


that is the field of your absence
the field of my isolation
I have carried down what the great artist said


to the beloved I sky you
and now know exactly how I can
sky you how I can also abandon field


you how I do wildflower you and entire atmosphere you
I vacant darkness you I underground you
I one long horizon you I thirst you


I will stay here in the climate of absence
until I empty well you