Tout Pise

travel book cover

years ago by the calendar
we fly to the fabled city on the Arno
take a Ryanair from Gerona late
in the day so at dark we
swoop down into a fogged
circle of glittering light, Pisa
a galaxy on the dark Ligurian Sea

looking back today these brain-file
notes are formless as a cluttered
wastebasket & resisting any effort
to impose order on yester-

day & that night the TV show
biopic of Mother Teresa
in the kitchen & men baking
pizza and cannelloni while
we table in the dining room
whitewashed walls
yellowing sacred hearts
photos of a wedding
ages gone

later we wander sodden
dark streets & parks
then gelati on the Arno
standing exactly where
Percy mused one eve
by the calendar nearly
two hundred years back
& spoke clear to the clouds
over the bridges words
weightless as ink on paper
ethereal as bytes

later we walked up to the tower
yes we had to see the tower
even in the dark
because this was it
even unlike the cover of
Tout Pise guidebook
all shadows & gray wet stone
our train to Firenzi the next morning
left early so if we were going to be
good tourists we’d have to do it
in the somber rain, more of a
mist, one of Percy’s clouds
lingering

so there we were
alone on the campo
us two & a tower bemused
hulking & weary from
all that leaning
all those years
when a taxi screeches to a stop
behind us on the street
& out jump up
four Japanese businessmen
how do you know they were
businessmen, by their dark
suits, white shirts, crisp silk
ties & shiny new shoes, oh
yes, & you know
they are Japanese, by the
haiku chatter & Nikon cameras
taking turns shooting each
other solo then in pairs
& the weary wet tower backdrop
under the bored but wary
eyes of a rain-beaded car
squad of carabinieri
securitymen smoking

fast forward twelve years
& one day click on a button
find Percy’s poem digitally
broadcast filling the brainfile
labeled Tout Pise
a wastecan full but
as empty
as any
claim
to know
ever
was

the light Percy saw
may illuminate stone
still & inspire
but we have to
take his word
for it
assuming
nothing

vouchsafing the tower dark
& heavy its weary patience
its presence
brain-file practitioner
so, true

(Discover for yourself the poem, “Evening: Ponte al mare, Pisa,” by Percy B. Shelley on Carlo Rossi’s wonderful blog with photos, old engravings, and a translation in Italian. The Tout Pise guidebook dates from the 1970s and is useless for touching our memory of what we saw, being as it is full of bright photos of churches and bridges, none of which we ever saw.)

© R Young

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