Afternoons the wind blew the clouds
down the horizon and scattered
a sheaf of papers to the floor
where you lay curled
around a book — Lampedusa was it?
And the memory of light, how
it invaded the rose stone steps,
crumbling and stained where the water seeped
through, and your laughter under
an arching blaze of camellias,
faded under the harsh tropical sky.
Blue mountains frame the distance
toward another time when
red awnings in the square absorbed
the sun, men strolled indolently past
braided garlic, iridescent peppers,
fennel, and goat's milk cheese, all waiting
for someone's hunger, while olives
languished in immense jars.
And a temple abandoned to the weeds,
more desolate for an age's passing,
marked your progress toward disillusionment
as if you were eternally mending a net
handed down from father to daughter,
yet your patience like that of the old women
who trudge the road to the belvedere
to mark the sun's passing, to see
the clouds map the land.
Today the wind blows the sea inland —
gull cry and the bitter salt spray.
I held it in my hands —
it weighed millions of pounds.
How could I possibly hold that weight?
Ideas weigh nothing,
they float like colorful balloons
just above the type.
I must be very strong
to hold the heaviest element
even though it takes me
through the floor of my room,
through the earth to the other side
of the world — they've always said
that on the other side was China
but it's really the roof of the world,
the sacred mountains of the ringing bells.
I can see my breath
steaming, a locomotive of desire
for the atomic weight of books.
The black type floats before me,
an exhalation of the writer's hunger
to weigh and to find a way with words,
to create a closed universe of desire,
to carry alone the final dream of the book.