For Anthony Hecht

It was one of those towns with practically no perspective,
the architecture half-geometrical, houses upon houses
stacked at dizzy angles. Clouds the shape and color of laurel leaves
hung in a pale blue sky. The locals walking around wore
guilty looks, conscious, as always, of having something to hide.
Flowers grew in doorways, abundant, untended, extending
themselves in gestures of inquiry and yearning. Iridescent songbirds
plunged through the air, heedless of what might be waiting
in the forest at the foot of mountains that appeared
deliberately jagged. An angel, robed and golden-haired,
floated absent-mindedly above a garden. Farther off
and smaller in scale, a leather-winged devil, whose grimace
augured either laughter or tears, crouched on a rooftop.
A lake, or possibly the sea, gleamed at the far end of a road
that wound through other towns, each a staid collection of arches
and towers like bunches of white asparagus in the noonday sun.
Saint Francis liked to sing in French and knew the troubadours.
Bending forward, he did not look directly into the eyes of the animal,
who cocked his head, thought for a moment, and started wagging his tail.

This Issue

October 21, 1999