Autumnal by Stanley Plumly
Not long before she died my mother told me
that her one regret was never to have traveled
and that since she had just read about it
or somewhere that reminded her from sometime
Venice was the place she would have gone to
and might still in her haunting of the afterlife.
She had already questioned God in heaven
and the heavy Bible verses she was taught
and now saw death as her last chance to live,
her last chance to spend the green-gold leaf
pressed into books each October on her birthday.
She wept, she understood the innocence of dying.
And here she was propped up against her pillow
the way she finally would be in her coffin
with her eyeglasses held between the light
and open page. She wanted me to hear the article
that said that Venice would be filled like all
Italy that season and that Venice in particular
was vulnerable and small, weighted with the souls
of travelers, and that in the Grand Canal
rivers of dark waters moved.—Would
there be space?—It said, salotto citta,
that Venice was a city the size of drawing rooms,
lit with the flowers of funerals and weddings.
"Autumnal" by Stanley Plumly, from Old Heart: Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.