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Elizabeth Kostova

In Split


We are here. Where else is
marble curled against a sky
flat, rich, perfect in late afternoon,
or a daytime moon painted in milk
against the blue?
A nun with glasses and Corinthian face
closes one rusted shade against the vines
that hold, hold to walls. She is kin
to the cracked sphinx of black marble,
but not to the little fine plants
that grow where walls crumble.


Today is colored by your sunburn
and dark glasses, the colors of children playing
with sticks and unripe nuts. You have been sensing
the Baroque urine in the tunnels, the pigeons,
seagulls, hazed water. Your head is tipped
back; you look at the pastry tower
with its columns straight as saints, its smell
of decaying sun, scum on water. Should we
hold like a trumpet-flowering vine or fly,
without hesitation, among the arches?


Quicker than any life
the swallows come, leaping
under marble, through the archways,
side-on, head-on, making a new architecture.
They have a plan for this city. They
will net it in filaments of air. Coming home
from other towers they see it shine beside
its boats. They see it standing by its sea,
marvelous still but too old
for this uneasy foothold.


Today as I sat in the tower,
Following the swallows' impossible movement,
they came toward me with knowledge written
in their forked bodies.
Then I leaned against your beautiful arm.
I could learn from those
who plumb only the span of marble
and the drop to earth.

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