Reading Italy

for Larry Levis

And I am not what happens next
though I have come again with my broken music
to brutal Italy,
to faint rain and Rome,
to the Piazza di Espagna
and Keats’ narrow room.

Come again as if to please
whatever is pleased by repetition —
dogs, god,
priests and
votive nuns.

Come again like one devoted
to the wake of things,
to look down from this window
in the air of a sick man’s room
just above the eternal moil of commerce
and the sepulcher-white steps.

I will make the walk to the cemetery —
Protestant cats for my graveyard guides.

I reach through a fine net of rain,
touch the ruined harp on his grave.
And I am not what happens next.

Across theses tiled roofs, old TV antennas
like a graveyard of fish bones.

They all point in the same direction.
What river left them stranded here?
What signal now?

Each night’s immigrants spread out
their white sheets in the campo like prayer rugs
and hawk their knock-off Prada bags.
Each night the carabinieri arrive
to drive over the purses and beat the men away.

We are never outside of the coliseum, I am thinking.

In Venice, I snuff a candle at the tomb
of Giovanni Pesaro, a nausea of gold mosaic.
He is held aloft in a tap dancer’s pose
on the backs of onyx-muscled slaves.

Giovanni Pesaro waits in an ecstasy of waiting.
The slaves only wait.

I should read to the birds like St. Augustine,
but I am not a saint myself.

Doves fly from the pleated Aegean
like a cloud of smoke from a distant war.
Hunger will have them in your hands.

See them glide from the towers of St Peter’s
and try not to think of angels,
of white sparks from a flame.

I have seen shopkeepers and tourists
lure them with breadcrumbs, lure them close
to crush them to delight the crowds.

And I am not what happens next.
This is my answer when nothing calls me.

I have seen noble Italian faces
tilted back to meet the sun like sundials
but the hour is the same.

Printed from Cerise Press:

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