My father, in his prime, was not a calm person. He could be adventurous, but would suddenly panic, as he did on the night train to Florence, Italy.
We were abroad, the six of us, each with a large brown canvas suitcase. The train stopped at the Florence station—Firenzi—for three minutes. Then it went north, no doubt into the Balkans or Bulgaria, carrying those other passengers—gypsies, guitarists, soldiers, assassins—behind the iron curtain.
So we were instructed to hurl first our heavy suitcase and then ourselves on to the platform. Before the train even stopped my father was cramming his suitcase through a cracked window and heedless of four children who might be left behind, he leaped from the train.
He was hysterical, but unscathed. We survived our disembarkation and saw Madonnas draped in blue, and Jesus bleeding on numerous crosses, odd fare for Jews. We ate pasta.
blue mussel shells open—
the briny taste
I will acquire
I often think I would have been happier if I’d stayed on the train, vanished into Macedonia or Armenia, been in my thirties when the Berlin Wall came down and gone some place like Norway to work in the hotel business.
fountain’s sprawling gods,
cathedral’s great shut doors,
my father points, points.