Halvard Johnson
Store Clerk in a Bookshop & Other Felicities

for David Howard

For some time during the war, accountants disembarked
without fixed occupations, their little black bags full of

cigarettes, soaps - witnesses of the well-dressed ones, defining
the chronology of Italian poetry, a vague, discontinuous

delineation of private facts, perhaps even evasive.

It is known that for some time in Milan he was a store clerk
in a bookshop . . . a strange joy of living, this

in the time in which hermeneutics, more than continuation,
was the poetical current. Therefore, in the sense that

impossibility or inability gushes forth to establish and express

a rational, recognizable relationship with the world -
the nature of his native land, sometimes sweet,

sometimes ungrateful, but always the atmosphere in which
the poet - he or she - lives, just like others, expressing,

in similar ways and with the same language, pain, joy,

and melancholy. He (she) knows how to pick up on the natural ex-
travaganzas embezzled from alienation, caught up in space, its

vacation from history - facts having more to do with things than
persons. Voices - then hisses - stronger and stronger in the noisy dawn.


presence ofitself,
news of their coming
she replied, her voiceclear as
its own depthin sound
of the “ping” that faintly edges spoken
words, low woodwinds, her even
joyful hint of sorrow
Happy? she answered
thinking of love the child that
she will bear


days later, listening to early-morning news on TV,
heard he was dead and realized weeks—even
months—of dread
changed all arrangements for day
drove to New York and
on arrival,
placed myself at
nothing to do, wanted to be
of use, asked to be present


in twilight chapel,
floor end to end, surface disappeared
its painted universe there of itself
first muted colors
before restorations of great stilled
figures in their narrative
of creation, sin,
impossible not to think
they unfolded into form
work of a man who
knew more than nature