By John Grey
The city houses perfect strangers,
in pools of last night’s rain.
A stray dog keeps me company partway.
Underfoot, I kill the local sidewalk weeds.
A lady in black sells mountain flowers.
I buy something white and fragile,
even though my solitude has no need of beauty.
I slip it in my pocket, pay her generously.
I stop to gaze at old men trading stories.
I don’t know the language but the expressions are in English.
A young woman in a tight red sweater strolls by,
eclipses my view for a moment but doesn’t spoil it.
We go our own ways. Next, I’m crossing a piazza,
I’m leery. No one about. I could be robbed.
American tourist, on his knees, handing over everything.
And the only local phrase I know is “Thank you.”
I try to hide my foreignness. Pray
the robbery will be quick and merciful.
Of course, nothing happens. Shadows
are clearing. Spaces fill. Church doors open.
In an alien world, nothing more alien than its houses of worship.
No pews. Many icons. A holy man in blue and white
with a long black beard. He will do for my day’s
imaginary companion. Either he or my fading flower.
© 2020 John Grey