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Italian


ISSUE:  Summer 1981

It would be enough
if Marvin, on his first scared journey
to Italy,
found there in the gassy rainbows
in puddles in the gear-stripped, tarred,
broken, bled on and often washed
streets of Rome
a sky to go home in. He must be
looking for something—
this child of an island—
to have crossed the ocean and Alps
without gold, without
one book on birds or plants. God,
how he hopes he hasn’t come
just for a self-portrait.
So in the gassy air with green pears
and the arc of a banana
left from a pocket’s lunch
leading him on. He has a habit of bananas
and of not peeling them in time.
They point at his feet and grow dark.
They are wasted.
But, if it comes to that,
they are not more wasted than marble,
which seems to have been used mainly
to break the people’s backs
and interrupt the sun
and find another use for sand.
The air there could make you remember
a drawling sea,
or corn gone ripe into colors
and gathered for the holidays. He won’t
want to stay by himself.
He won’t be satisfied to make tiny flowers of type
alone in the hotel or cafe.

He won’t be made beautiful by the news
or our dancing. No,
he wants to know which word means really.
He wants to know which word tells where two streets meet,
which word means turning around fast.
He wants to know which word means not tied.
And which means frightening.
He needs to know which word means an outside covering
on a house, and which one means
you think something happened.
He wants to know how long the growing season is.
At home. Once he put a hand
into the water somewhere in a flat wintry light
and the whitefish were the bones of diamonds,
so why not anyone?

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