Dog Days of Summer

In the dog days of summer as muslin curls on its own heat
And crickets cry in the black walnut tree

The wind lifts up my life
And sets it some distance from where it was.

Still Marco Polo Airport wore me out,
I slept in a plastic chair, took the water taxi.

Early, too early the voices of children
Mimicking the clatter in the Internet café

In Campo Santo Stefano in a place of black coffee
Bordellos of verse, bony accolades of joy,

Saint Stephen stooped over a cross,
A dog licking his heel, blood drops from a sign

By the church wall—Anarchia è ordine
The refugee from Istria gathers up nails.

She will cobble together a gondola with bits of driftwood
Cast off the shores of the hunger-bitten Adriatic.

In wind off the lagoon,
A child hops in numbered squares, back and forth, back and forth,

Cap on his head, rhymes cool as bone in his mouth.
Whose child is he?

No one will answer me.
Voices from the music academy pour into sunlight

That strikes the malarial wealth of empire,
Dreams of an old man in terrible heat,

Hands bound with coarse cloth, tethered to a scaffold,
Still painting waves on the walls of the Palazzo Ducale.

Meena Alexander, "Dog Days of Summer" from Quickly Changing River. Copyright © 2008 by Meena Alexander.  Reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press.
Source: Quickly Changing River (Northwestern University Press, 2008)
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