The House of Juliet
Of questionable authenticity and taste sneers
the art guide to Verona. But love's pilgrims
don't care. They spring eternal in the courtyard
of the medieval palazzetto--an empty tomb
except for me and some bored guards. The action
is all down there. From her mullioned window I watch
the play, the blithe extras jostling
for a chance to rub the pure, untarnished breast
of bronze Juliet, graceful as a dancer
on her pedestal stage. Here come the young
Romeos, lips caressing the mouths
of cell phones. Broken off from a tour group's knot,
two Asian girls weave towards her,
hair streaming like black banners
above the silk sails of their jackets. An old woman
steps up and pats the breast as if wise
to the ways of rising bread.
Not done yet, her cupped palms say,
forgetting the end and its taste of ash.
Her husband's shaky hand spirals
in slow motion, a last wish
he can't stop making. After every homage,
the crowd cheers, a faith in love natural as breath,
and I too sigh for love's outpouring: all the undying
declarations, the bright, heart-to-heart names
written over cobble and brick, trash can and telephone,
blanketing these walls almost to the balcony,
where they lie together,
a field of buds forever suspended in April.
A 1999 New Year's Day Musing
The speckled blue cave of the self-
cleaning oven makes cracking sounds
like a robin's egg opening.
On this day of fresh starts,
I want to believe in our dominion
over animate and inanimate worlds,
that by simple commands, we can erase
the mess we've made.
Last night Raffaello painted a Doomsday scene--
plane crashes, penury and darkness--
as our electronic guardians fail us, crashing
one by one like proud angels,
damned. Sipping champagne, I struggled
to imagine this day next year,
warming hoarded cans of soup
over a log fire.
Now, deep inside our apartment,
you're tapping on computer keys.
From time to time, a single drum beat
signals mistakes, each aborted
attempt to defy the program.
A smoke detector begins to bleat,
then shriek like a fatted calf remembering
its own death, this blast of heat,
the final rendering to charred remains.
All is preordained: after three hours
our kitchen crucible shines
like an enamel icon,
its luminous face