Peter Weltner ~ Herkimer Dolomite

Hunched, arthritic, his clothes reeking from
cigar smoke, an old man visits the Sig house
bearing tweeds, an itinerant tailor who sews
suits, jackets, slacks for young gentlemen,
his fabrics woven only from highland wool,
he says, their colors a subtle heather, thistle,
loch blue. No buyers. He shrugs. Times change.
He stacks his goods in the back of his coupe,
drives down College Hill Road, his cloth bolts
lined up like rolled up banners behind his seat.
Twilight late in January, the sky’s bronze as if
rusted by age, a lustrous deep coppery brown,
like decaying leaves or the campus’s gothic
buildings, their stones smoldering in near dark.

Its deep pits are quarried out. What rock’s left
to mine is ironless, won’t rust, stays dull gray
through years of weathering, not worth cutting
into blocks to fix what’s chipped or cracked
on the college’s ancient edifices, stained by
two centuries of northern New York ice storms.
I first saw them in spring, boys playing lacrosse
in the quad by the chapel, the morning light
casting the dorms with a ruddy patina, sun
soaked, like the mid-May tan on the guys
pitching, catching the ball with their racquets.
Odd how vividly I recall them that one time,
three months before I enrolled, like a picture
revisited in a year book, as clear to me now
as October’s glory days, the Mohawk Valley’s
dense woods turning to bloody maroon,
scarlet, flare red, fiery gold, flickering
yellows like a shrine’s votive candles, hearth
flames slowly dying to November embers,
ash pale or flake white. Winter began soon
as a day or two after each Thanksgiving,
a few trees left clinging to no more than
a swatch of leaves, losing them by the first
snow, the sky watery gray like smoke from
a dampened fire. In upstate, winters are hard,
long like those in Arctic zones. But the old
hewn blocks thrive in cold. Their colors
deepen, blushed by the rust burning in stone.

Michelangelo carved to free bodies lost,
hidden, forgotten in marble. He knew
stone memories endure way past our own.
Too many to name them all, profs, friends,
but I’ll risk a few: Crossett, Teddy, Lady
Ed, both Cams, Kit, and you I loved most,
though we seldom talked the days we could–
the boys, men dead as always before,
their spirits chill as College Hill winters.
No matter the season, the buildings glitter
like crystalline snow. But their sparkling façades
hide rock’s deep veins. Say life also rusts
like iron to a color bronze as late Brahms.
A quarried music. Our mineral companion.

from The Outerlands, BrickHouse Books, 2012

We hope you enjoyed this dollop of the macabrely from DM du Jour.

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Peter Weltner has published six books of fiction, including The Risk of His Music and How the Body Prays, and, in 2017, The Return of Whats Been Lost, five poetry chapbooks, among them The One-Winged Body and Water’s Eye (both in collaboration with the artist Galen Garwood), and six full length collections of poetry, News from the World at My Birth: A History, The Outerlands, To the Final Cinder, Stone Altars, Late Summer Storm in Early Winter (with photographs and paintings by Galen Garwood), and most recently The Light of the Sun Become Sea.  He and his husband live in San Francisco by the ocean.

Danse Macabre is proud to name Peter Weltner our 2017 Artist-in-Residence. May our dedicated Macabristas delight in his wondrous poetics in both DM and DM du Jour throughout the year – and heartfelt thanks to Peter for his generosity in sharing his artistry with us.



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