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by K. E. Duffin

In the early morning hours, when the sun is still tender and silvery,
when the shops are beginning to open and the pigeons are starting to
mill about expectantly, scouring shiny paving stones for crumbs from
last night’s revelry, the statue seems to brood its way further into darkness, as if aware of its distance from life, plans for new villas trapped
within the stone of its brow. Sitting beneath it, in a jovial array on a
marble bench, are ancient men in fedoras, all of them a prescribed distance
apart, like seagulls on a pier.
         They are talking politics loudly, their sculpted hands knotted with
thick veins. They seem bewildered by the moment they fell away from
the ideal of big-headed David, bedroom-eyed in another city, but they’ve
gone on anyway, cowed by time, feminized by exhaustion and age, talking
a honeyed buzz accompanied by the briefest of sidelong glances, as the
swifts wheel overhead and the clatter of lunch plates begins, a din that will
not cease until 1 a.m. exactly, when all noise will stop, as if ordered to do
so by an overseer who emerges from a nearby chapel to clap his evanescent
palms. The men in fedoras will have disappeared by then, having followed
the one womanly voice they heed back to the tangled garden of
home and the fire that renews unworded life.
         In the guano-fouled labyrinth of the basilica, the jeweller pens his
Byzantine memoirs in gold filigree, leaning on a glass case that holds little
swords beaten into bookmarks. Balancing perilously on a needlethin
pillar, the lion of Saint Mark softly growls in his sleep. Toward midnight,
it will rain, strafing the windows of the notions store where pink
plastic putti dangle among bolts of cloth. In the entranceway to the
home of an architect, puddles will lap at the feet of sarcophagi whose
carved, sinuous forms are slicked with light. Planters will fill with black
water, and blacker water will drip from the ox skulls studding the mossy
bridges, from the frowning faces of stone that stare out with unchang-
ing fury, envious of everything that moves. Near dawn, the snub-nosed
truck full of blue gelato from Padua will rumble slowly past saints who
are drifting back to their churches, famished for the tarry, candled sepia
         Tomorrow his crisp villas will be out in force, defended by a verdancy
that defies the normal spectrum, a wattage of green bordering on
the impossible. Delicate clouds will crisscross the sky, blueprint for a
perfect dome he will never build.


More essays from AGNI 61 by K. E. Duffin: Marostica | Bronx


K. E. Duffin's book of poems, King Vulture, was published by The University of Arkansas Press in 2005. Her work has appeared in Chelsea, Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, Hunger Mountain, Midwest Quarterly, The New Orleans Review, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Rattapallax, The Sewanee Review, Southwest Review, Verse, and many other journals. She is also a painter and printmaker. (4/2005)

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