If they ask, tell them about the hotel—a medieval tower

that distorted acoustics, and from the lobby,


a morning sneeze spiraled up fifty steps to my door.

That the owner pouted each time she remembered


I travelled alone. If they ask what I saw, tell them

a short walk opened into a huge piazza where students


slept on stone, and backpacks and bellies served as pillows.

Children blew bubbles. Men hawked umbrellas.


And reigning above it all, a she-wolf

statue suckled twin boys. If they ask what I heard,


tell them a man reminded me of you,

his eyes closed to the sky making love to his violin.


Say among the thousands in Siena, I eavesdropped

on an Italian couple arguing in the crowd,


as if it all came down to this defining moment,

forcing a sea of moving tourists to part around them,


then come together again. I wanted to wave a wand over

their rising voices. If they ask how different night


was from day, say at night I bolted the shutters

against thunder. Tell them the ceiling made of tree trunk


and pitted bricks rumbled. And as the sky let loose,

I let go a sadness and a joy I had pulled too tight,


and I cried with abandon. If they ask,

tell them dawn was clear-eyed like a Roman sun


pouring wash buckets onto cobbled alleys.

Tell them outside my window across tiers of rooflines,


pigeons wrestled insects from moss on the clay tiles,

a dawning palette rang in a day of mottled gray.



Jo Brachman has published poems in Best New Poets 2016, Bellingham Review, Cimarron Review, Poet Lore, Birmingham Poetry Review, and others.

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