Cobbled streets have the burnished look of stone skulls
sinking like a necropolis of Ugolinos from centuries
of bewildered tourists stumped in the Eternal City, mulling
over which way to turn. Every ruin begets a selfie
like a Hollywood set directed to life then ditched
with each phone’s shutter click. Past the bronzed
facade of the Colosseum, ominous as a chipped gold tooth,
other crowds follow like apostles the voice of a guide, yawning
and carrying her flag aloft like a cross. Even here I look for
a history of myself. In the Musei Vaticani, I zoom close
to Art’s record: frescoes, sculptures, altarpieces, and war
with pilgrims for the best shot, studying the prose
of a guidebook to explain Exekias’s amphora,
the slave boy delivering clothes to a nude Pollux,
or why every Christ child craves the adoration of a
black Magus: shades frozen in a single hole.
The crumbling stone beneath our feet speaks to us;
even Rome’s dust possesses something of human
grandeur, the elegance of decay. I envy the triumph
that certain paintings give back my face, but Romanus
almost sealed my fate. Still, I’ve more hills to climb.
From every gift shop Papa waves at his blessed lambs.

One evening someone will dream of Tuscany and see us
walking along a narrow country road past Relais
San Bruno, plum littered, beside the north-facing slopes
of vines like formations of green soldiers on their way
to nowhere, a stray dog trotting ahead like Hecuba
who halts and impatiently looks back, checking
our progress to San Biagio. If dreams are rumors,
we are sliding into the light of prayer, practicing
soliloquies of silence in our first year of marriage,
our astonishment punctuated by those cypresses
whose exclamations put a point to blessings. Offstage,
if that sleeper should change pose, and half undress
herself of sheets, let her shift not break cataclysmic
and lose sight of the stone-bright travertine walls,
nor the hills rolling soft as her body, these ancient brick
farmhouses, nor morning’s rustic tinkling call
of sheep bells, the honeyed fortress of this city whose blush
of red poppies in fields below collapses some tourist,
our dreamer, into the arms of her husband, crushed
by the view from Montepulciano, nor the way she holds his
hand against her chest lost in a pasture of tiny dwellings
whose faith repeats in campaniles that reach her deepest wells.

That window at the Grand Hotel Palazzo in Livorno
framed the Tyrrhenian Sea like a white-bordered postcard
he placed gently on an imaginary wire rack below
other views accruing whose postmarks
he’d yet to stamp, so they swiveled in his mind
involuntarily and slowed with a squeak: perched angels
standing guard on the bridge of Sant’Angelo, the crenellated line
of cliffs above some coast, a shop owner waving farewell,
sweeping and aproned, roundabouts whose circles he never
completed, the half-erect heads of sunflowers like a cavalry
in training, all clichés of travel, even the waterfront terrazza
with its checkerboard squares. But not her pillowed beauty
still sunk in sleep, a soft coating of night sweat on her face,
her neck lengthening into a Modigliani. The arrowing flashes
of fallen stars he prayed upon were superfluous; their places
changed, but she, she would remain like the horizon whose light
increased, flooding their rented room. Dawn arrived, the shrieking
seagulls circled into view, next, a ferry, launched to fulfill its routes.
Flip this over, a scene scrawled in lines clear as Greek, stealthily
composed then slipped under his door like a hotel receipt.

About Emmanuel Muema

Hi, I'm Emmanuel Muema, a blogger and a huge Lil Wayne's music quite a lot. Find me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Posted on May 28, 2015, in POEMS. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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