for Ben and Michele
If we, who have gleaned from towns jutting through fog
how clarity comes in season by season,
revisit the places we’ve been happy, then this
will be one. Already, we imagine, you’re away
twisted in foreign linen, recalling our faces, oval-lit,
flushed, unglued from so much wine.
Even as the sleep you’ve put off past midnight works in
like footfalls at your streetside window,
there’s time for one last thought: that tomorrow holds
another day like this. The sun-spanked piazza,
with its chugging fountain and stairs astride the canal,
will press you in afternoon heat until dinner,
Over the terracing earth, our common friends
eat, or furl curtains at an old-city casement,
or scatter for mountain finches a handful of seed.
One threads an alley in a crosstown taxi
to a lover, while another sits leafing the elder Disraeli
in a dog-eared edition, or tucks a blanket
round the ears of a child who woke shrieking in darkness
from a dream of lost home. It’s for us,
as for yourselves, you do this thing. Beyond tonight, we,
who have seen in you, both singly and together,
a perfection, know nothing again may be wholly gainsaid.
And if the fealty of one for the other
constitutes a rival good to God’s, then it is a balm
He has allowed the solitary.
confides: so much of what lies ahead hides from us,
as you estimate which she has more of,
gatos or teeth? Of course, she’s right about mystery.
So for what you knew before, you pay her,
and know it a second time, more fully now. Ask your question
in two-times-twenty years, Signore. Ask her.
She will take your hand, and, still your bride, tell you
something of why you strayed in company…
with children, cronies, two fur-balls; parents gone.
Like a scintilla discharged from flints,
what catches the eye at night becomes the memory you keep;
just so, the offshoots of our lives become our lives.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 18 Number 8, on page 34
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