Friday, 21 October 2011

Italian poem No 11.

The Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua

Pilgrimage to Padova

Do you remember Sant' Antonio's?
The domes and towers and pinnacles and sky;
two ancient nuns who, limping arm in arm,
each bore a portion of her sister's load,
pied against the orange bricks of noon,
a focus of intensity and eye? 
Gattemelata by Donatello
Do you recall the warrior on his steed,
so purposeful, yet humble, looking down
over the chasing children and the crowds
of tourists and of pilgrims and the town
that once he served and set him up on high?
And does your mind still hold
that vision of perfection-
dark and light,
the arches and the heavens and the gold,
the blazing star on blue mosaic night;
the tiny babe of bronze
with face so sweet
that sits within the Virgin Prophet's lap
as if still in the womb and raises up
his little hand to bless the majesty
of frankincense and gold,
the dripping candles and the thousand prayers
laid daily by the humble at his feet?  
Remember how we walked by the canal
as darkness fell that night,
and looking up,
we saw those minarets against the pink
and smoky blue of evening?
Swallows flew in pairs and suddenly
a bell rang out,
so clear and cold and high.
Ding-ding! Ding-ding! Ding-Ding!
Another answered lower
and another, slower, deeper still,
till one by one each bell was called to chime
until within the sweet cacophony
the last and largest spoke with solemn voice
that told of death and of disaster grim.
Dong! Dong! Dong!
Do you remember when
that dreadful man appeared
out of the darkness while I stood alone
upon the bridge? 
The moon over Sant'Antonio's
My flesh turned to stone:
I could not call for you or run away!
And suddenly you loomed against the sky
in that big jacket,
looking hugely broad and tall and fearsome!
How he shrank away
and vanished like a startled rat!
Remember then how smug you took my hand
and pulled it through your arm?
"Let's now wind up the day,
and go and find a place to eat!" you said.
We took our dinner in a small cafe.
Remember how the waiter made us laugh?
He walked like Charlie Chaplin with his tray
and scuffing feet
and dragging cuffs;
the same moustache:
it could have been his brother!
So the happy day
drew to a close
regaled by music of the concertina;
blissful sleepiness of food and wine,
of feet tired out with walking,
eyes with seeing,
mind with taking-in.
Do you remember still
the day we went to Sant' Antonio's?
I always will! 

© Tamsyn Taylor 

No comments:

Post a Comment