And there we were in Rome together, you
for the first time and I returning to the city
of my dreams. Our history was speeding
toward us as we flew to piazzas where glasses
were always filled with wine as we wound
through days and nights of inextricable tangos.
It didn’t matter that Italians had forgotten
how to be themselves, were crying their way
through evenings of teargas. We saw the water
lit and falling, or rearing Garibaldi’s wife,
and watched old monuments rise up to reach
the stars we knew were skewered there
for us, for us, and in this state of madness
we were right, and still are this night as snow
silts on the eaves of our house, mortgage paid,
no debts, years flying toward us now so fast
that all we can do to slow them is lie still
and at peace in the dark, letting the busy plow
thunder by as we hold each other palm to palm.
KEEPERS OF THE DEAD
This fall brings tokens of your loss
in scuttle of fallen leaf or light as numb
as a hand beneath a sleeping head.
Sun rusts, and full moons dull to pewter.
Beloved cabernets, my zinfandels
are juice extracted from a still life
hanging too long in an empty house.
A book of Egyptian rites tells me
when Pharaoh died, a man chosen
as living twin for all his days
outside the rising pyramid ate
and drank, lay down in sleep
and woke, unlike the body closed
in its linen, disemboweled, in dark
surrounded by carven slaves, bakers
at ovens, fishermen lifting nets.
Some evenings in last rays of sun,
after my sacrament of sole and wine,
eyes closed I stand by the window,
tilt my face to pass light into your dark
where still you live as long
as we who knew you breathe,
blessing such days for you, for you.
For Hayden Carruth
THE DEAD, RECLINING
Envy the couple in Villa Giulia
reclining, he stretched behind her,
she sheltered in the curve of his body,
both holding up their hands
to lift the kylix of wine.
Their smiles are immortal.
Or the couple on a stele also lying close,
and a servant is filling their cups
which they hold out to be filled
and toast our witness to their joy.
Even a gravestone can provide brute
matter for the alchemy of love.
But I can’t envy the dead. A glass
of the best Bordeaux or Barolo
helps to celebrate the slant of sunlight,
and I’d rather act out love.
If they are Etruscans then so are we
as we linger at dusk, drinking
our glasses dry, moving into
whatever night offers.
T. Alan Broughton has published four novels, a collection of short stories, and seven books of poetry, including A World Remembered (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2010). He also has been the recipient of various grants, awards, and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.