Thursday, December 8, 2011

riding with the contessa

italy. october 2011.

somewhere in the october distance
in a patchwork of nourished rows and turning vines
a reflection curves, spins
off metal, penetrates my eye
comes at me, alighting from the misty golden
heaven of hills—olive, basil, rosemary, cypress—as if
i am staring at a some kind of priceless painting
capturing a wild, refractive, and bold medieval light
shining past centuries and on and on and i shield my eyes with my hand
and i am alive and pressed with a hefty gladness
a gift, an unexpected prize that comes with the day
this welcome day, how much there is of it
in the moments before drumming hoofbeats west of bologna
near casina announce a cloud of warriors i can feel in my chest
riding, riding toward me away from sky and falling sun.
i see her at once fearlessly leading the ranks of men—
matilda of canossa, la gran contessa—clad in armor
her face riven with pride and lust for the chase
strands of her long brown hair lifting, unfurling
like airy banners waving triumphantly
with each rise and fall of her horse's hooves.
i smell the beasts' sharp sweet sweat
hot breath sucked in and out of power machines
hundreds weighted with rippling muscles
all knees and heels, hocks and fetlocks
gouging the fields to seek an enemy—to repeat the humbling
of an emperor who had groveled penitent in the snow—
soldiers bearing swords and daggers protect the quattro castelli
the apennine stronghold, the golden road that curves through
the mountain pass to matilda's doorstep.
block the teuton onslaught! through the rush of bodies
the spraying saliva and blood of men and animals
i hear cheers in the twilight—witness another october....1092—
glorious shouts of victory fly up through the vineyards—
henryVI is beaten!
fling him back across the alps
from whence he came!
i stand alone
instant silence dropped
on this primordial bed compacted with these fallen bones
planted in soughing rest, deep and light—wistful, wistful—
powdering the earth, oh soft, soft.