r ampersand j

You were heir to some city-state,
Verona, say,
sent to Bologna, finishing school
for minor city princes.

I was a diligent itinerant,
a Dominican, eh?
Pounding out my questios
posing disputationes
at U of P—what posh Parisians called it in those days.

Each sunset,
letters raced across the Alps,
one thousand kilometers—
as the pigeon flies—dividing us.

But we all know what Bologna’s for—
raising philosopher kings
heavy on the statecraft
whose knees aren’t worn

with the burns of genuflections,
smooth foreheads uncreased
by worried lines of should and shouldn’ts.
we are a class of boyish insurrections:
Via Zamboni’s paved with blood
of petty politico-academic rivalries.

I was deep in bed
with my scientific queen,
and wouldn’t leave,
not even when the fearful hollow of mine ear
was pierced by your silver lark:
you sang so cunningly to wake.

Come back to bed! I cried—
there’s room for three!
but larks cry havoc,
and release the dogs of war.

You wouldn’t stay.
or look at her, she who
I worship in the day
and slave for every night.

I’ve always yearned for a man
whose thirst,
like the hart’s is never slaked—
by wine, whiskey, or divinity.

But in Bologna,
tutors beat out appetite,
until your thirst has turned
ravenous greed.
For flesh, for followers,
and for infamy.

Your stomach’s never empty,
and your mouth is never dry.
What is prayer to such as you?

I asked. I waited.
What’s prayer?
Was your reply.

I know petition and appeal,
I know justice, merit, and right
punishment meted out in temperent jurisprudence.

What you call study is a longing for what you do not have.
School teaches us to want for nothing,
nothing infinite,
nothing inadmissable,
inaccessible, ungraspable.

School teaches us to grasp,
to wrest,
to carve, to chisel at these city-states
until our portrait is the map.

I held you, like Christ’s hazelnut,
for an eon and a half,
cradled in my hand and heart.

Goodbye, I said, adieu.
I took the next camel-train across the Alps.
Back home to Paris, without you.

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