Michael Gizzi’s “Requiem in March”

Requiem in March

for my father

Father when I heard you were gone
I walked in my sleep
like a gun looking for a head

was it wrong to think you were indestructible
if it was only a plane crash
why didn’t you walk from the wreckage

after three days of rain
the earth is drenched
and shiny like an airplane

I think of birds that bathe
in puddles on your grave
biting water finding a life

and those that die
lying like airplanes
in the forest

I have dug ditches
in my skull
for each of them


Any poem is a door. Something opened and entered. Screen doors. Bead doors. Poetry and trauma invite many metaphors.

“Requiem in March” opens Gizzi’s 1974 collection Carmela Bianca (Bonewhistle Press). Unlike his later tongue-slappingly psychedelic Language works, such as those in No Both and My Terza Rima (The Figures, 1997 and 2001), the requiem is an unmarked one-way door that leads into a trauma-induced Tardis.

The poem communicates Gizzi’s initial feelings of sorrow, anger, and disbelief at his loss, and then an eerie calm settles, a mist, the logic shifts:

after three days of rain
the earth is drenched
and shiny like an airplane

We are invited into a re-wired mind that has begun to perceive the world through the lens of its grief.

This is a poem of traumatic perception; a world made strange. Gizzi has been coddling his crisis in some dark corner, and when he manages to recognize the world it is unchanged; birds are still birds and planes are still planes. Confused and haunted by Death and its symbolic Reaper, the Plane, planes become the filter through which he is able to re-perceive, re-enter, and re-justify reality. Rain makes the world shine like an airplane and a bird flies like an airplane and a wet bird is like a tiny, shiny airplane and birds and airplanes fall from the sky into the forest and Gizzi was an arborist. Reality is always re-ing and re’d, door to door, trauma to trauma, lens to lens.

Initially, Death stimulates a psychosis where it seems that the only possible reaction to Death is to put a gun to a head (Somebody else’s? His own?) and shoot. As the lens integrates itself so does Death enmesh. His father died as birds die as planes have crashed as the narrator, assuming the role of a dryadic Catrina, opens up his skull to all of this by digging instead of shooting. Digging does not absolve pain, it integrates the Death-Plane-lens into Self. Skulls open like graves. Anew, askew.

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