If I Did Not Understand the Glory and Suffering of the Human Heart
I Would Not Speak Before Its Holiness

after Saint Theresa of Avila

When I close my eyes I see my father,
dying. I dab his head with a washcloth.
His open mouth jaws a gurgled amen.
His eyes emote hosannas of breakage.

I wish my eyes could blink a drone strike back
into tactical non-being; the dead
ghost down the road in a wedding convoy,
and I wonder how I might turn away

from a deep sorrow that is not my own.
When I fall asleep I don’t dream stairwells.
In me, a school of salmon swims upstream.
In me, a fish leaps against the headboard.

Dear Lord, I fear paradise diffuses,
in a sharp gust, like dandelion puff.
Set the tinder of old phrases burning.
I’m waiting to pull the bee from the rose.

I call the door ajar in me a grace.
I want to be as flagrant as the wind
that cuts December Wednesdays in half.
I hear notes that build a more merciful

God, some days, and other days I just let
the bear in my belly swing from my hips
and I paw out my animal blessings.
And my animal blessings paw out me.


Dante Di Stefano’s poetry and essays have appeared recently in The Writer’s Chronicle, Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora, Shenandoah, Brilliant Corners, and elsewhere. He was the winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, The Phyllis Smart-Young Prize in Poetry, The Bea González Prize in Poetry, and an Academy of American Poets College Prize. He currently serves as a poetry editor for Harpur Palate and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.