Words curdle. Words evaporate.

Words reconstitute in the scent of strong coffee,

        in the kicked-up odor of wet, decaying leaves
    present even in summer outside these city walls.

Our words were never


The hand
    can take up a pen or a brush
and create symbols: flesh
        pulling meaning from nothing.

And how full that nothing is
    with the dust motes in the church where you painted,

    with the light of guttering votives
        circling the Virgin’s skirt.

Full with silent prayers and the cold breath
    of cobblestones. I often wondered

where you walked: satchel slung over shoulder,
        shirt scrunched down to the skin of you,
    the little current of air you generated—if it were
visible—a deep blue-green.

The eyes of my heart would follow you

up hills and down,
        through the cool
    shadows of grocery, garden, and nave,

through the sun’s stream beamed back
    from walls, beneficent.

I rested my forehead
    on your train window to Rome.

I followed you to the seashore
    where you grew strong on wind and light.

    I followed you not knowing
where you lived till I left for good.

To think my fingers could have touched that door.
To think my palm could have pressed the cool metal, turned;
    that I could have entered and known.

My hands kept busy with bread
        and cup, with glass and guidebook,
    each day cradled
by the guttural beauty of the cool air at night.

(For the night had an imperceptible sound—
a dark, creaturely groaning and a

        lilt soft as wings in cypress trees—
which unfurled

    something like waking in the womb.)