Friday, October 21, 2005

Italian Trio


I'm happy to stop and sit
to watch fat carp swim
the dirty water
in this marble fountain.
On a pedestal
in the centre
a heroic bronze figure
looming high
in big military boots
and a gaudy feathered topi
leans satisfied on his sword
after a hard day of subjugating
the two natives
with notched shields and bent knives
cringing below him.
The way the Umbrian sunlight
shines today
I cannot see his shadowed eyes.
I imagine they show the heady gleam
of a conquerer
who hasn't yet realized
that his great moment
will be quietly stuffed into the file
labelled 'colonial misadventure'
while revisionist pigeons
critique his performance.


The village idiot
sat by me today.
I realize that politically correct
North Americans don't call them that
anymore but
they still have them here.
He was dressed in
a 60's ad-exec hat
and skinny tie.
His checked suit
hung loosely
as his jaw
and his pale blue eyes were
vacant yet strangely sharp.

We shared a park bench
in the warm sun
on the grotto,
looking out over
a misty hilly landscape
plausibly stolen wholesale
from the background
of a da Vinci portrait
and I felt tolerant
and companionable.

As the bell
in the bullet-scarred church
behind us
struck eleven o'clock
he turned to me
and spoke between slack lips
with a burred rumbling voice.
I couldn't understand him
and he couldn't understand me.

muttered softly to himself
then got up and left
correctly concluding
that anyone
who didn't get
perfectly good Italian
was more of an idiot than he.


In Verona
the sidewalks are marble,
and the coliseum,
cream and pink slabs
worn smooth
by a few thousand years
of Italian feet and bums
then roughened again
by acid rain.

In Verona
at night
high on the keep
look down over the warm lights
of their city
and watch them reflect
in the slow glassy river.

In Verona
whatever the tourist trade says
to cash in on
Shakespeare's imagined balcony
Romeo and Juliet
still live
up here on the castle walls
in friendly darkness.

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