Dora Malech

Portami Il Girasole . . .

After Montale



Bring me a sunflower so I can plug its roots into

the socket of my salt-scorched coast. All day

let it display the little burning of its face, turn to

the sky that flashes back blue takes on its anxiety.


Darkening things still stretch toward what is

bright, bodies overreach, bleed into a wash of tints

and shades, pigments that, synesthetic, rinse

into musics. Unwitting, we wished. What luck it is


to vanish. Pluck up the petalled pinwheel that conducts

the gold crescendo of hours into haze, the surge no

orchestra can follow. Three hundred thousand volts into

the vault. Bring me the sunflower, crazy with light.

Late Lullaby

After Saba




Heat that fierce in October was rare.

You were my refrain, my heavy little pearl

back then. It was my job to fret over


the sun on your skin as we lay in the grass.

The stream, a hopeful playmate, gurgled, heard

but unseen. You asked about the sound. You asked


about everything then. I told you it was water

running louder after rain, which turned

over more questions: from what? to where?


My baby, I ask you now the same, it seems,

from far past where the stream unfurls

its white flag and gives itself up to the sea.


Ask me anything now and I’ll answer. Come home.

I call to you from the place between wars

where men are back from their battles and little

girls have not yet been sent to their own.

Wind and Flags

After Montale



The gust that hoisted the salt scent

from the sea unfurled over

the valleys’ switchbacks down

the garden’s hidden path to where

a bully in love it tousled your hair

to a crown of tangles and later

up the steep steps to the square

plastered your dress to you then

elbowed the men in the café chairs

and at night an angry drunk sent

trash bins flying slammed doors

rattled shoved started a fight

between the docked boats

that same so difficult invisible

resistance now that you’re gone

for sure has sober returned shamed

slinks into the garden to rock

your absence in the hammock

strung between the cedars.

The waves will never throw

the bones not paint their forebears'

portraits on the sand nor sign

the waterline in quite the same way

twice and we are saved as such.

Our fable would rip itself

to pieces if we ever found again

ourselves together in the wind.

The grains the glass metes out

shape down the coast little tries

at villages barnacles clinging

to the hulls of the hills dressed

for a saint’s day in their best

bunting and ships’ pennants

strung across the narrow streets

bright fluttering bits and tatters

hauled home as a child might

drag weeds and shell shards

back up from the shore proof

that a bright place he remembers

exists or existed. I surface

with a start to sunlight to see

those to whom the world

gives nothing give thanks.




DORA MALECH is the author of two books of poems, Say So (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011) and Shore Ordered Ocean (Waywiser, Press, 2009). Her poems have appeared in publications that include PoetryThe New Yorker, and Best New Poets. A 2010 Ruth Lilly Fellow, she lives in Iowa City where she teaches at the University of Iowa and directs the Iowa Youth Writing Project, a nonprofit language arts outreach organization.