dio non voglia

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 28, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 28, 2018



dio non voglia


I. Tulips


The length of a line

is never enough

for me to learn to see

clearly: the color of this

flower. This, that I

hold, blooming, in my

hands—what disasters

can it cause to crash

upon me?




A flower given

is a heart extended

from within one chest

across an empty space

toward another. This

heart of mine waits

to learn the language

it longs to speak, but

never, it seems, will



II. Two Lips


Two lips

were all it took

for us to join

together for the

moment of this

dark lonely night.


The moon above us

is a clock ticking

away the time it takes

for two hearts to break;

more slowly now, we must

let these lips move more



III. Tuscan Sunset


Meaning is elastic.

Like the looks that trade

between your eyes and mine

on this night: the interpretation

I’m making in this mind is flexible.


Bound by nothing, we stare across

a white tablecloth and empty glasses

and plates and mistake this exchange

for substance. We take these hanging

lights to be magical, the conversations

fading into noise all around us to be

imaginary, and the clasping

of your hand in mine

to be fate.


What reason would we have

to think otherwise? Italian

nights breed romantic

notions, like mind-

perplexing potions,

and we aren’t immune

to the subtle vibrations.


Tuscany: you strange

breeder of beauty—

from da Vinci to Botticelli—

you’ve strung love across

these landscapes. And she,

she and I; we are transfixed

by it.


If only she knew the truth.


How little time one has

before going away once again.


If she knew could she love me like she does?

It would tear it all away, the knowing.

So I keep it secret. The briefcase,

the suitcase, all that is a myth

at the back of my mind, for

now. She is a painting I

must memorize the

meaning of.


And for that to happen,

I’d need to stay my whole life.


So instead there is just one night.


One night: where the clouds have

subsumed the sunset beneath their

black smoke, so that it looks like

an explosion is hiding beneath.


But then the clouds start to break.


Light streams across the waterline;

red and orange light creeps along

the crashing waves as they kiss

the shore. The sand absorbs.


IV. Finding the Way Home


Now we are walking.

Hand in hand,

through alleyways

that seem all too thin.

Narrower, these paths

grow. Narrower. Just

like the feeling of

how long this

fling might


Narrower, it grows.


V. Within the Warmth


At home,

we tear off each other’s clothes.


For the first time all night she asks

for my name. I tell her, “Daniel.”

Four hours ago she mentioned

hers, “Bia.” She told me

that in Italian it means:

“White.” When I first

saw her, she had a flower

dangling over her ear.

Later I asked her,

“What flower is that?”

“A white tulip,” she said.


She told me her

mother grows them,

on a little farm outside

Livorno, where her family

is from. “Livorno is beautiful,”

she said. “The buildings at the port

are like a rainbow; pink and yellow

and blue.” Now when I think back

all I remember is her saying the

word “blue.”


VI. Blue


What other color could describe

the feeling I felt when looking

at this beautiful woman lying

beside me in my rented bed.

She did not know it was

rented. She thought I

lived here, in this apartment.

And she thought that because

I’d lied to her about it. And this

lie had been following me around

all night, like a raincloud. I felt it

pour sadness over me, knowing

that only I knew the truth.


Her face looks so peaceful.

Like her whole life she had

never even known death.

Not even owned a puppy,

read a news headline,

or picked a flower.

Like her whole

life was pure.



Blue was the color of the wonder

I felt while lying next to her in that room.

Was our love to be the first death she knew?


VII. A Letter


I received it like any other.

Checked the box, found it

lying there, all white and folded.


I opened it and found the sending

address to be the same one I’d visited

those years ago: Ardenza, where we’d

met, where she’d lived. I’d never

ever gone back.


VIII. Cross-Examine



at nighttime:

the buildings

look made of clay.


And what are we?

Molded, it seems.

We take shapes

with our faces

and our gestures

manipulate the clay’s



I remember

back in art class

in school, when I’d

press down on the

tiny figure I was

shaping: I’d leave

hundreds of little


on the surface.


A hundred little

proofs I’d been there.

I doubt I'll ever return

to where my thoughts

were at that moment.


But now

we are walking

with our hands

joined together

along this beach.

And I look behind

us, and I see

the great Italian

sunset. And I

look outward,

toward the ocean,

and see

the magnanimous sunlight

draped over the water,

and I know that I will

remember this for the

rest of my life.


I look down

and see our pairs

of feet: shaping

themselves into

the sand; and I

look back and watch

our trail bend and slide

as the tide takes it away—

turns it into a memory.


And now, 23 years later,

as I look down at your

too-white face I feel—

I know—nothing is looking

back. And standing here

at this funeral, I am filled

with an overwhelming desire

to mold your blank, closed

lips into the smile

that takes shape

whenever I close my eyes

and think of you.


IX. The Boy I Met


After the funeral,

at the reception,

I met a boy whose

eyes I knew to be mine.


He came right up to me,

said Hello. I said Hi back.

He seemed uncomfortable

to meet me. And suddenly

I knew why. I asked him

how he knew Bia.

“She was my mother,” he said.


I asked him how old he was.

And he said, “I thought you knew.”


X. The Things I Found Out


She’d never told him

where I was from.

He said it was because

she was worried he’d

go looking—would leave

her just like I had. But

she’d told him much

about me; she’d even

said I was a good man.


Now, on the flight back,

the funeral hymns play

like nightmares in my mind,

and I will forever wonder

how different my life

might have been

had I just chosen

to stay with her.


To accept her love,

just as it was given—

a white tulip on the ear,

blooming, snipped at the

neck, beautiful because:

nothing lives forever.


Outside the plane,

I see through the windows

the sun collapsing like a sleepy

head beneath covers, and I

see tear drops land clear

and wet atop my briefcase,

and I listen to the plane engines

carry me back to a lonely home.

© Copyright 2019 TommySheffield. All rights reserved.

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