It is like opening my dead lover’s hands, When I open Ovid’s Metamorphoses To the lovers and their loins, translated By A. E. Housman, angry with his verbs And angry with being gay. Across the alley of dogwood bracts The neighbors are going at it: The sounds of sex give The Belgian-lace curtains Of their bedroom a flutter. There be a cool breeze in that house That don’t blow here. The sparrows of Nanjing Killed in Mao’s Great Sparrow Campaign Left the indents of their bodies Above the branches of the scholar-trees. Filling in these indents now? Speakers the size of sparrows, A marquetry of their song. The beaks of beaten sparrows Are like love and love in recherché. They so seldom occlude. Their songs feel espaliered tonight As they carry down the dogwood Branches and into my blood vessels. In The Metamorphoses the viper Is whispering through the jasmine Before he kills Eurydice On her wedding day, Before she sleeps with Orpheus.

CHARLES ISRAEL, JR., teaches creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte. His chapbook, Stacking Weather, received the 2008 Flip Kelly Poetry Prize. His poem, “Spring and Winter, Coeval” was selected as a Poem of the Day by Poetry Daily. His poems and short stories have appeared in Field, Crazyhorse, North Carolina Literary Review, Nimrod International Journal, and Zone 3. He lives in Charlotte, NC, with his wife and daughter.