“Spring Break” by James Longenbach

James Longenbach


For three days, Friday
Plus the weekend,
I pulled up roots.
I wandered

Freely among women in velvet dresses,
Men in cutaways.
When I signed the guest book

One bowed, one lifted
Fingers to my lips—I was

A field of poppies
Blossoming, then blown.
A blind man gabbling on the bus.
A bicycle colliding with a taxi—lost,

I could be rescued,
Therefore seen.
Vainly I disguised the letters

In my name.
Streets, people’s
Faces, the movement
Of their bodies suddenly
Vivid: spindly

Thighs, the cut
Of muscles
In their arms, fingers

Clutching the key.
One licked her teeth.
A crust of bread was dipped in oil.
For whom I had returned to the streets of Maiano

They knew, but they remembered
When I had enough secrets
I also had pity.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004


James Longenbach: “I wrote ‘Spring Break’ while living in Florence, near the village of Maiano.” (web)

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