He sits in a corner café, waiting for the girl to join him,  
as he looks up at the tarnished majesty  
of domes that crowd the broad shoulders of buildings.  
Tiny streets break off at corners like veins,  
bleeding as streams of people course in and out.  
Again feeling the slight tremor, he thinks,  
 'it's as they told me:  the pages of history.'  

 Around him, shop windows line the square,  
 decorated with infinite patterns of ancient lace.  
 Spinsters working at their spools,  
 'the last of a dying breed,' he thinks,  
 the threads of their longing patterned into this intricacy,  
 unraveling if only the smallest thread is pulled.  

 He knows that behind him in Brooklyn,  
 his mother is setting out her good tablecloth.  
 She will study again the black and white photographs,  
 edges cut in mock gilt as crisp as the scalloped gaufres he eats.  
 The phrases he learns seem too small for his yearning,  
 his broad accent breaking the delicate china plates  
 of French words he wants to caress.  

 But no one had told him about the loneliness,  
 how some dawns would rise  
 with no break from the blackness of night,  
 the day so shrouded in heaviness  
 he had to wonder how planes could get through.  
 No reference, no Rilke, no grand extrapolation  
 could keep the grey from creeping over each white wall,  
 every surface as blank as the map once laid out  
 to chart the New World. 

Copyright 2000, Elline Lipkin 

Elline Lipkin is currently a poetry Ph.D. student at the University of Houston.