THE BELLS REPLY


I know there is something I had been meaning to say,
but the sudden cracks of thunder and jagged bolts


of lightning on the road to Assisi that first day,
and the jasmine that was blooming everywhere,


and the once-bright frescoes crumbling into dust
made me forget what it was I had intended.


The hills are so beautiful, high and green,
with their views out over the shadowed valleys,


making me wish I were a bird about to fly.
The sun is hot and close on my skin,


and I have been caught up in my slowing breath,
and in the feeling that time has been stretched out


and in the bands of light pouring down
through high windows, blessing what they touch.


Since I have been here, I have felt a little giddy,
a little dizzy, as if I were still standing up


on the roof of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore,
tiny Florence at my feet, not so sure, after all, I want to fly.


Half a dozen times, at least, I have forgotten and remembered
and forgotten again while Italy flickers in front of me,


too bright, too dark, too hot, too wet, too beautiful to hold
for even a moment. There was something I meant to say,


among the ruins, under the arches, watching the waves
of people wash through St. Peterís Square;


but the light is dimming incrementally, and the swallows,
swooping and diving in hectic joy, call loudly to the bells;


and whatever I meant to say is lost for good
as the bells reply, clanging and singing the darkening hours.

Jenna Nielsen

About the poet: Jenna Nielsen lives in the Bay Area. She has had one poem published in Commonweal and one forthcoming in St. Katherine Review.