Twelve Line Poem
You tell me it’s unorthodox for a Protestant
to kneel among garish flapping wings,
where saints gild benedictions, pick at Mary’s apple heart.
Deliciously bilingual three-toed angels, the Pigeons of San Marco
murmur prayers into God’s telephone, yet
I dare not speak the truth: Darling, you suspect that I am fluent,
but my heavy tongue belies our Milano jackets,
scarves and calf skin gloves. Dove sei amato bene,
the only Italian I know: grazie, prego,
a few synonyms for coffee.
Our mouths give us away:
Americans. Worse yet: Tourists.
The daisies were the first to go. You said,
“The florist claimed they’d last a while,”
which I interpreted as forever. Silly me,
always stuffing in the words I wish I’d heard…
The tiger lilies, though, they’ve hung on,
singing arias every morning, each a tiny Callas.
And those strange, small purple wildflowers will,
I suspect, outlast the lot. Word and flowers and arias
forge a peculiar trinity. Enamored of such little deaths,
we flock to lunacy assured the symbol
meant to last consists of the ephemeral:
the greenhouse or the opera; poetry and art;
while beetles perched like birds on Jesus’ foamy rib
thwart the stems of good intent. ______________________________________________________________________