I was in Italy once and there was a mask shop.
I was in Italy once and there was a bridge.
I was twenty and wandering the country
like I wandered my mind. The sweat-and-cigarette
packed metro, the stains on the hostel pillow,
even the knife-eyed men calling across alley
came through in soft focus. I filed them away, all under S
for Story. I was in Italy once, and I was sick,
as sick as I've ever been. My throat swelled
and my chest filled with pebbles. My heart clattered
like a roughshod horse if I walked up a flight
of steps. But I ate cheese and bread heartily,
thinking, like Heidi, it would make me strong.
It didn't, but days went by and I forgot, slowly,
the frantic thumping. I was in Italy once and I drank
cooking sherry from a jug. Someone laughed, and I
filed that away, too. I was in Italy once, on a payphone
on a dock on an island. A man approached, and I spoke
the language brokenly, said "phone" and "United
States" and he nodded and stepped back. It was,
inexplicably, my proudest moment. I was in Italy
once and I watched a curtain of pigeons lift
over St. Mark's Square. I thought, I am watching this.
I thought, what a good word: curtain. Later,
I ate tiramisu on the canal and was aware
of doing so. I was always aware of doing so.
In Venice I thought the clouds were mountains
in the distance, and made a note of my foolishness.
Later, I realized they were. I was in Italy once
and thought I could tell my own story.
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