What I See When I Think of Next Year …

There are no trucks: only pigeons.

No steam-spouting trains: only pigeons flirting

with pigeons. No lawnmowers, no leaf-blowers, no grunting

AC, no airplanes (they’ve been forbidden to fly over cities since the cataclysm

of WW2’s ally bombings). Only pigeons flopping

about the rooftops. On Thursday

mornings there is a church bell—a real one with a fervent man

in a cassock hanging from a rope to make it

chime. Or maybe children. I picture three,

a monkeying heap. I can hear their screeches

rise up the bell tower shaft. In a great wing-flap

the birds burst off the steeple into pink sky.

I roll over to press my body

against his. I will never tire

of his warmth and the soft edges,

the rasp that undulates through

his back ribs to tickle my breasts, the thought of his

face collapsed in the pillow, the sudden breath as he remembers

to be one of the living. My toes recoil

intimidated by cold tile, then press down:

there is packed soil, sand, sweat, fire, and even the vagaries of men

bound in these tiles. I slip on

a nightie made of ancient linen, someone else’s

initials embroidered on my heart, someone dead who made something

so precious, it outlived them. Careful,

I climb down uneven stone steps, the middle sags

from four centuries of servants. Women, mostly

—maids—but I am sure they snuck up lovers with rough hands who unbraided their hair

and took them quickly, in silence, always on their way

back to work.

On the third floor I stop to pee.

On the second floor I peek in the living room where nothing happens.

On the first floor I turn on the coffee-maker and put on some shoes.

Two doors down I push the tinkling door and

the almond croissants are happy to see me

—the small heap of them, a little brown on the edges, burnt but not,

powdered sugar pointing the way like Hansel and Gretel.

La boulangère appears, lugging her sad smile and lack of sleep.

She asks if I want my baguette pale or crispy, waddles out

from behind her counter, points at her swollen knees, winces when she drops two croissants in a tiny bag that butter stains at once. She takes a minimalist

amount of money and she is the parting clouds

when she predicts violent winds.

Five footsteps and I am in my kitchen

with the coffee that smells like the virgin forest.

Out on my street the children are walking to school, rapping, arm-in-arm

to the tempo of seven times six equals forty-two. His voice

soothes me though I do not know what he is saying.

I am a dog: the tone is the whole story.

I choose my clothes for touch. The shoes must be sensible

because I walk to the market, I walk to the café, I walk to the library

with Roman ruins in the bay window. I write there.

There are studious people who nap and homeless people who whisper

among books. We listen

for the repercussions of the Django Reinhard down the street.

In the garden Van Gogh painted, feverish,

the crèpe is savory, the waiter ceremonious, the coffee sinewy as a marathoner.

The client I meet in my den has everything but is unhappy.

We meditate. We talk with our eyes, our hands. She leaves radiant

and free, and

I go topless

to my rooftop where a yogic sun charges

each breath with God: each cell an angel.

I am heavenly choir.

Twenty-two students arrive, anxious

for revelation and we part dripping,

enraptured. Dinner is lamb shank on the sidewalk

with brash friends who chain-smoke, rosemary, chilled wine.

At the theater there is a giant acrobat who specializes in excavating

the kernel of human relationships by carrying old ladies in his arms.

We will stop for ice-cream (lavender, cinnamon, nougat) on the way.


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