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The Etruscan Sun

ISSUE:  Autumn 1974

(Susan and her friend Joseph slept in a farmer’s field north of Rome. She dreamt the sun was rising red, but when it rose fully into the sky, it turned to stone. In the morning, they found they had slept among the ruins of an Etruscan temple.)


What was the heart of her story,
tired, on their bicycles, night

coming on while they tried to reach
Lago di Balseno, the farmer,

his permitted field, earth under,
north from Rome, her dream?

The sun rose twice, once of fire
once of stone. Then a third time,

morning over the fields, round house,
ruins, temple, the unknown gods.


The field is always permitted,
isn’t it, and the sun allows us

to look at its transformations.
She said it was the way a sun

rises in, or is seen from, Manhattan,
splendor filling empty streets,

bring key come into the lock,
redness. Then fully in the sky

turned as if the wrong way. To lock
the world. Sun turned stone.

The archaic metaphor takes flesh.
It was grey. Grey like ordinary stone.


I had thought the sun she saw
might have been cooked earth, brown

of Etruscan pots and statuary.
But it was grey stone. The color

of morning had gone from it
but there was still enough light

for her to see what it became.
Stone risen out of her dream.


How tired they were, trying for a lake
before sunset, to camp there.

But night came on. The farmer
permitted them to rest in his fields.

Why did she, telling the story,
make so much of that permission?

Because any vision must grow
up from ordinary life,

be faithful to its roots (minutes,
dollars, kilometers)? How tired

she was from cycling. Permission
let her sleep into the dream.


Has it been that way all ways,
big eyes of the Etruscans, amber,

terra cotta, their eyes had all the colors
and the world a stone lit by a stone?

Stone of mystery to which our passion turns,
flagrant above horizon—is that

a betrayal of our powers, relaxing
of the colors we were meant to shine

out from ourselves always, all ways?
Her eyes were amber,

she had come from the east to see this,
as the sun had. The two of them.


Be kind to me, I meant, and
thank you for the dream, I said.

These things are given, aren’t they,
to pass along, a message or mystery.

That the lost language be solved
by the stone that’s left,

only the stone,
and these things rise, don’t they,

above the personal horizon
into a sky we share. A sky

we are, I meant, our heat
the heart of it.


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