The Islands of Africa

By Philip Lamantia 1927–2005 Philip Lamantia

to Rimbaud

Two pages to a grape fable
dangles the swan of samite blood
shaping sand from thistle covered fog
Over sacred lakes of fever
(polished mouths of the vegetable frog
rolling to my iron venus)
I drop the chiseled pear
Standing in smoke filled valleys
(great domains of wingless flight
and the angel’s fleshy gun)
I stamp the houses of withering wax
Bells of siren-teeth (singing to our tomb
refusal’s last becoming)
await the approach of the incendiary children
lighting the moon-shaped beast

Every twisted river pulls down my torn-out hair
to ratless columns by the pyramid’s ghost
(watered basin of the temple stink)
and all the mud clocks in haste
draw their mermaid-feather swords
(wrapped by Dust) to nail them
into the tears of the sea-gull child
The winter web minute
flutters beneath the spider’s goblet
and the whores of all the fathers
bleed for my delight

Philip Lamantia, “The Islands of Africa” from The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia. Copyright © 2013 by Philip Lamantia. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.

Source: The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia (University of California Press, 2013)

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Poet Philip Lamantia 1927–2005


Subjects Living, The Mind, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia was born in San Francisco in 1927, the son of Sicilian immigrants. Largely self-taught, he started writing in elementary school and became interested in surrealism after seeing the work of Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí at the San Francisco Museum of Art. He dropped out of high school and moved to New York City, where he eventually became assistant editor at View magazine. In New York, Lamantia . . .

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SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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