IT MIGHT’VE BEEN A WEDDING
These are excellent cats, John said.
I countered. These are amazing engineers.
And so we exchanged opinions for a while
until adjectives and the mundane merged,
John with his ginger ale and me
with my bicarbonate soda. Between us
lay a bag of Cheetos and behind us
one of Botticelli’s lesser-known frescoes.
It might’ve been a wedding.
It might’ve been poetry had we looked
more closely, all sky-blue and gold
like Europe used to be, but John
had to see his accountant and I
was left to count the stones on the road
weaving through the Roman suburb.
We agreed to meet again on Tuesday
when the tourists would be fewer,
the world older, the orange trees oranger.
At the far end of the parlor
sat a piano nobody played,
a Christmas tree year-round,
& a volume of Bishop poems
bound in blue cloth. Mother
called it her Feelings Room.
Father called it the Arena
of Useless Things—too bright,
he’d say, too much to remember.
It was not a place a boy
could disappear inside or be,
with the overwhelming smell
of lacquer, the braided panels
& the angel glaring crosswise,
always ready to fall. Father’d
comment after whiskey of her
being stranded in a villanelle—
Mother, who wore three brooches.
It seemed to me a room
where women went to die, void
of sugar, too made to be unmade,
but no one listened to me.
I wanted the Georgia clouds
& bass in Sticky River, baseball
& the urgency of Annie’s hair.
I wanted these strange people
to go away & forget me.
Where the Wasatch—bright
with snow in spring—begins,
we used to curl blankets
around the legs of our elders.
Some showed wounds
in the shape of serpents; some,
ashamed of having fallen,
chewed pokeberry leaves
& whithered miserably
until they died. Their bodies
tremendous, we hauled them
to the firepit & stayed away
from the smoke they made.
As such, the bearded men
called the continent theirs
& drank on wooden benches
long after their children slept
& their wives’ dreams ended.