Orvieto

For eighteens years

she has wanted to come

waited almost two decades to sit

with the sun making a copper moon

of her hair, and the Duomo a Gothic pair

of winged angels behind her.

On a sketch pad in her lap blooms an ink stain,

a transfiguration of gleaming rose glass and gold-spun mosaics

and the thick chalk of some primal riposte

to Signorelli’s exquisite terror.

I find her on an ancient bench

in this ancient city after I have left my group

to scale the hillside fortress on the funicular.

As I wait for my companions, she shares her perch

with a smile, a softness carried from the light

slicing through the cathedral’s alabaster windows.

For three days, she has been spoiled by rapture in these

Umbrian arms, unfolding the secrets

of its underground labyrinth, boring bone-deep

through the tuff to the caves of her longing.

She has stared down the spiral of St. Patrick’s well,

and felt herself go weightless, sloughing off layers

to the breeze sweeping the silver-gray

of olive grows, the pinnacles of cypress.

In her purse is a postcard of the setting sun

splaying its amber waves on the old stone walls

rising above the valley, a fragment

of her mother’s past before Nebraska,

before the farm, pinned, a hungry whisper

on the refrigerator door, for years after she’d gone.

“I could never get anyone to come with me,” the daughter now says,

here at last, alone, an inhabitant of her life.

I do not ask how or why only let myself settle

into the happiness that slides out of her,

a river song of rearranged notes.

For isn’t this how it is?

The way we plan and dream, throw

ourselves into the center

of large and glittering things, then circle wide

the question, the answer, a name

for freedom we assign

to someone else.

Until the day it doesn’t matter

what looks different or why,

how we begin or allow the small splinter

of courage to squeeze through our numbness

as you and I stand in the porch light after dinner

in the frame of every shadow

that’s wedged its will between us,

in the haven of all our sweetened words.

And every closed fist

of memory opens to shake

out the dross that turns

my feet to goodbye.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Orvieto

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