Down by Andrew Shields

A city on a hill
waited at the end of a day spent
on trains. Switzerland and Alpine tunnels
led to Milan and a run through the station
to my connection. Northern Italy was a Little Egret
at the edge of a stream (still there
on my return), then down the coast to Ancona
and another train, into the mountains:
Spoleto. A taxi headed up and over
the hill the city’s built on, took me to
the convent I’d be staying in. House Martins
were nesting under the church’s eaves. My room
was at the top, with a view of the aqueduct (an attraction
for tourists and suicides). I fell
on the stones of the bathroom floor,
bruising my knee and shoulder, then kept
falling, down through the floors of the convent,
into the ground, past all the city’s strata.
There were the cathedral builders, and those who lay
street on street; there were the Romans
who built the ten brick arches of the aqueduct,
standing there so silently. Down I fell
to the Etruscans, where I caught myself
and looked up with them at the augury
of the evening Swifts, sickles cutting the sky.
The oracle’s words to his people were clear: no one
would understand them, the streets would lie
as silent as the arches, the cathedral would survive
its builders, and just like them I would get up
an hour after dusk to hunt mosquitoes
I could only hear.

Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His book "Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong" is being published by Eyewear in July, 2015.

Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His book “Thomas Hardy
Listens to Louis Armstrong” is being published by Eyewear in July, 2015.

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