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Breathing in the Arno
by Elayne Clift

Like Litmus paper changing tones,
The color of my heart deepens
In Italy, a place that pulsates
In my veins and feeds my soul.

Italia, with its shuttered pastel houses,
Its spice-scented gardens and alley sounds,
Tempers and scandals, duomos, tiled rooves,
Scorching sun, blue-green seas,

Its gigolos and bambinos and mamas in black,
Crumbling facades, cafe and trattoria sounds,
Parents calling to their children, "Piano! Veni qua!"
All ringing for me like church bells in the night.

Once more, every time, I am awakened,
Reminded that I am still breathing, and
Grateful for an old love's familiar overtures,
Whether while overlooking Lake Maggiore,

Traveling the Riviera's coastline,
Or spotting fishing villages dripping down
The mountains of the Cinque Terra,
I feel the hot breath of Italian afternoons,
and yield to its seduction.

But it is sunrise over the Arno River,
And the gentle new light of day,
That captures my imagination best,
Surpassed occasionally by sunset
In such a magic place.

Looking upon the river from the Ponte Vecchio,
Or anywhere, really, embracing peaceful skies
And ancient secrets, what more could one wish for,
Except perhaps to end one's days in such a place,
Embracing such beauty, longing yet letting go,
While silently smiling into the final sunset.

Adapted from Around the World in 50 Years: Travel Tales of a Not
So Innocent Abroad,
by Elayne Clift (Braughler Books, 2019)  

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