Autumn In Florence
She wears her hair like a halo, a James Joyce madonna,
her Irish eyes spitting fire. Sat opposite is her nemesis,
a perverse shadow-form of the self made manifest,
tempting in her darkness, in her reading of the runes
from chalk scrawls on the wall.†
We are sitting in our grape garden: a walled backyard,
a trellis overhead, heavy with intoxicating, bulbous black fruit;
and I am reminded momentarily of Seamus Heaney, his fingers
dripping with summerís blood, but more, I think of Hughes,
his Crow mocking us, in our tenuous paradise.
In the bar, wrinkled, walnut-brown men play cards,
the smell of cigars and liqueurs float through to this backyard,
carried on the back of their sing-song, liquid voices;
a sallow contentment settles, even upon us,
even within our discontented Northern bellies.
In the still, hot air thunderclouds gather. The dark one
is mesmerised: an electrified Durga, she stares into me
with her dark eyes, strokes her fake satin, static skirt;
shimmering with small crimson flowers, it rides up her legs.
She giggles, as if at a private joke...
And my head dissolves in black, pubic curls of smoke.
too-revealed, summer-browned legs. The blonde one glares,
like she can read my mind... and she can! She knows me inside out:
I am transparent stuff to her good catholic mind. I am a nest of vipers,
a perfidious prod, a slack-knickered whore laid out on the altar
of some abominable pagan god. She stabs her chest four times:
north, south, east and west; she implores the holy virgin to rescue her
from all temptation.† Meantime, the sun burns mercilessly down,
even through this canopy, and black birds with black beaks
tear viciously at the vine, raining down upon the three of us,
black grapes from a black heaven.
In Plaza Santa Spirito I strip off my sweat stained clothes
and dunk myself, half-naked, in the lukewarm water
of the fountain. The sacred spirit doesnít enter me, but nor
do I enter her.† I am restrained, if not exactly washed clean
of all my dark desires.
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