Giulietta in Trastevere

David St. John

It wasn’t what I’d expected when I saw

the address Marco had written on the flyleaf

in my copy of Montale’s The Storm (it really was)

just before we left his brother’s bar next door

to a vacant dry-cleaning place on Broome Street

as he said You’ve got to check in on her for me

you’ve got to see how she’s doing—you’ve

got to see if she’s alive & I swore it would be

the first thing I’d do when I got back to Rome that

I wouldn’t let a day pass before I’d go & see

Giulietta & that I’d call him right away to reassure

him those needles she’d loved hadn’t lifted her

into some purgatorial silence & Marco was still

staring at me & saying nothing at all until just

a quick I know you will & it was only a few weeks

later I was back in Trastevere at Raphael’s when

Giulietta entered the party as if dressed in layers

of silk & frost drawing every eye in the room to her

faux jaguar jacket hanging off bare shoulders & I saw

it wasn’t an entrance so much as an accusation

aimed at the conversations in that room including

the one I’d been having about the movement of

the triangle in Kandinsky & its delicate mystical

agency with a Benedictine monk visiting Rome

from a high desert monastery at Valyermo where

I’d walked the Stations of the Cross one Good Friday

of a very bad year & now Raphael’s party for our New

Year of more brutal fears had us all a little edgy with late

resolutions meant to resonate across a next world war

& soothe those nightmares awaiting us even though we

knew the truth was simply that nobody saved anybody

just as I’d never save Giulietta & love fades to noir in

every mercury mirror & all in all I think I was relieved

to see her coming over to me rings chiming a wine glass

as she moved next to me to say      & so I see I’m just in time

David St. John is the author of thirteen books of poetry and prose and the coeditor of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of the New Poem. He is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Originally published:
June 10, 2024


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