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"Pigeon Spikes"

November 12, 2006

“Pigeon Spikes”


I.
He talked endlessly of the birds
of San Marco’s square.
But, you’ve never been there.


The birds, from a height, look like
living carpet, like so many grey hands,
fingers spreading and closing,
grasping and holding.
And from that height,
the spikes fang up in the foreground,
over gold mosaics of Byzantium,
of men brown-bearded as you or him.


I hate the stench of that place in summer,
putrid water found charming,
too many blown glass sculptures,
too much refracted light, colors.


I hated that his woman before me
was Italian, brown-skinned, dark-eyed.
And her name ended in the warm, soft whisper
of –ggio, -ggio, -ggio like wine thick on the tongue,
and a sigh of pleasure.


I hated that he could not love me
except that I had been there. I could tell of the stretch
of cathedrals through a grey, late spring sky.
That’s how we met—
I parted my lips to talk of St. Peter’s
to a room of half-sleeping American children.
He pursued me, that day. The next. The next.
After that, he walked me down the steps, every day,
faking a need to go where I had to go.


I hate that the woman with him now
has hair long, dark brown.
She’s in Firenze,
he calls her bella,
the thing he once called me,
beauty.

II.
I wrote letters—
one a day, postmarked to Italy,
that summer.

My Dove,
My Happiness,
My Wings,
My Sun,
My Everything,

Do not go missing…
I’m afraid that you are dead…
Or, have you fallen away?
I am no grotto, no duomo,
nor scaffolding to keep the pigeons at bay.

I have seen these things.
Still, I do not own them.
I cannot find a way to wrestle Venetian stars,
I am not so glittering as they are,
nor so near, in your eyes.
I cannot empty my head of heard voices,
sweet and cajoling, over your shoulder,
across this ocean.
I cannot kill the birds
landing on your arms. I am no spike
swiveled up, hanging bloody bodies
that would crumble our hallowed dwelling—


So, be prudent.
Be prudent.
Damn it; do not drown our love out.
You are just foolish enough
to cover what’s sacred
with the shit of birds.

III.
I lay face down in your bed.
I sleep this way, turned under,
though it bends my neck, crooks my spine.
I dreamt of him again,
last night, of birds.
I cannot speak or look at you,
through my pallor.
The spikes are wrenching up
my chest, or heart, an ache
that never quite quits,
coming in waves.
You want to take it from me,
but I won’t let you see the source.


You’ve never been there.
It is an ocean away.

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