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.