a year is not enough / to forget you –
a single year without mourning / properly
acknowledged, in public;
when five hundred years / have changed little, and slowly,
although everything / that can be understood
is different now from then / in this perfect city state
of cream smooth limestone / enriched by Libertas;
the preserved renaissance city / of sinuous ambassadors
whose arsenal now serves / as one of many grand cafes,
the pearl lodged in a hinterland / of implacable hatreds
that flared / as trade and prosperity waned;
I will not forget you / but mourning is over,
in coffees and crowds / and the sweltering heat
of July / on Stradun.
the old woman waits / beside the olives’ gate / she’d just unlocked – /
wrought railings / in the hollow lane / facing the revetment – /
slowed by the age / that greyed her hair / and lined her face, /
that thinned her bones / thickened her waist / and claimed her breasts: /
one of the last 200 here / she speaks to welcome / two passing wraiths /
who had been rooted / once in ground like hers / but now roam across tomorrow.
I wonder what it can be like, your life –
now that we’ve become detached
and you may flourish on your own –
a life full of excuses, self-discipline
as foreign to your tongue as any word
of Suomen kieli or Euskera, distant from your mind
as Ottoman order, power and decadence,
as Byzantine magnificence, manifesting God.
A life spent praying, searching, yearning:
for mercy without honesty….
for art, for math, for love, for innocence….
for kind acceptance with disbelief
suspended, between spirit and dependence;
a life indulging fantasy unanchored,
rejoicing in elusive charming freedoms,
in poverty patched by narrow bands of peace
and grace and garlanded deceptions;
a life lived too intensely but not well,
preying on its past in solitary spaces;
a life that I escaped, but at a cost.
And I wonder, What do you want?