David Brendan Hopes
The Italia T-shirt


So, I've been fighting with this poem through three cafes
And two streetsides where the throngs passing
must have thought I was, at the least, eccentric,
glaring upward in a rage of thwarted composition-

and all for the boy in the T-shirt that said, “Italia,”
the boy with the lips and hair of the gods in the Ashmolean ,
gold canopying ruddy gold, the blue gems of eyes,
the arrogant walk and play of hands the masterpieces

only hint at. Jesus, how one struggles for one's breath
in the Covered Market at his sauntering among the saunterers,
at his casting of those blue beams to the left and right,
you wondering where are the votaries, the bacchantes

ready to spend themselves upon the altar of such
off-hand, slovenly, soiled-sneakered, such supernal beauty.
I think, Oh! If only I were some bucolic
with the streams and meadows to write of,

the goddam flowers which hold still, the larks, et al,
which, though not holding still, pour predictably
their hearts about in unpremeditated mirth,
anything but this gilt steel boy with honey curls,

the lip which may curl forth such scorn or break into a grin,
the Michelangelic hands, big as a bricklayer's, big,
no doubt, from thunderbolts caught and hurled, which
yet may open in the triple blessing, “Welcome. Closer. Come.”

Alone, perhaps, of all around me I have made
a study of the road that Beauty takes to his
assignation with history, spark and tinder, till they meet.
“Splendor and valor,” I breathe between my teeth,

ignoring that he might, when once lost amid the crowd,
die young, die old and drunk, marry the boss's daughter
and not love her, never again look out from clouds
of glory as he did for me. I catch my breath in the coffee shop,

biting through marble and uranium for words.