It was after supper
when our family rode the tram
back to the city — to the streets
and the lights and to sleep.
I was at the window seat
pressing my head against the glass
as I usually did to look outside.
I saw you leaning against your window
your seat facing us
on your side of the tram.
You were gazing outside
the lights zooming past your eyes
stilled as if by the speed of the wind
and the blankness of uninterrupted light.
Then you looked at me
like a gaping hole
as if you understood
that after supper
walking out of the tavern
with music trailing our stride
I felt as empty as the streets.
And I wondered how much of it you saw
but you turned back to your window
and stared through the darkness.
The people clear the piazza
as the drizzle breaks into steady rain.
Huddled into the ferry
I watch the waves heave, turn
with the approaching shadows of dusk.
Earlier I was at the cathedral
gazing at an immense relief of Byzantine saints,
their garments encrusted with jewels.
The gems gleamed as if newly unearthed
blunt with a light faint
and floundering in the darkness.
The wind passes by me as I return to the hotel
the rain still drizzling
the buildings on the street stoop damp and reticent.
The lampshade soothes the light in the room
but the silence laid like a weight on pillows
and twisted tight under sheets simmers.
There is a tremor buried in the breathing.
After lunch we brought back soup
from a restaurant down the street.
My father was propped up on the bed
and slowly, as I picture my mother raise the spoon,
my head sinks into the pillow.
I return through the ripples of the bright emerald canals
to a few days before: a hotel room in Florence,
raised voices, and a diamond ring flung.
Yesterday I came from the island of Murano.
Standing in front of the furnace I felt the heat
flush to my cheeks as the molten glass
emerged from the kiln.
From the glowing mass
the limbs of a horse were plied,
braced at mid-gallop.
Hewn by the light
the glass danced with the hint of jewels.
Its flanks were tensed with the sound of crashing hooves.
You were younger then.
Holding a dictionary,
you taught me how to form words
from sets of seven letters.
Patiently you gave words
to fill my head and to slide on my tongue.
Now, as I let them slide from my heart to my hands,
you are bound and struck by silence.
I see you stare blankly in the kitchen.
I know you recall the faces of people,
the textures of places.
I try to avoid your eyes
knowing the colors I will see
swim with words
that speak not of this time.
Displaced, no words can keep you
in this time and this space.
The coat of seal pups is sleek with salt sheen
their hair shines newly oiled
as they play on the shore flipping their tails.
The arch of the sun bends on their young backs.
Their trust tethers them to safety.
The day is clear, the hour guileless and without wit.
The water rolls with the clouds.
Like an idea, purpose crests with a wave
a black blister moving like hot kelp.
The pups frolic on the stretch.
The tide laps their flanks. The foam
The mother cows are heavy with attention.
The whales rise like bubbles.
The sea opens with fin knives.
A pup is carried away like a cub:
teeth on the loose flesh of the nape.
Death is far away.
The whale flings the pup into the air
and catches it,
belly and tail splashing.
Its cries fly flockless.
A pup that has disappeared
is brought back.
It resurfaces as if borne by the sea
and now discovers land.
Its mother still waits on the quiet sand.
The sea closes. Clouds rush with the tide.
The day is unconcealed.
Shadows turn and are gone.