Near Firenze

for Sue and Jan

If I had not been standing on that ladder with the sun
just so on the yellow wall…if I had not
been reaching

to retrieve the hair clip
that had slipped from my fingers a moment before
as I leaned from an upstairs window into this very
postcard of a morning.. and if that barrette
had not been caught by the wooden ledge below…
if you

had not called out my name
from the shade of that shed, and raised your hand
to show me where you stood - only your hand visible
as it moved into stunning brightness…and if I had not
clutched the red beam for balance
as I turned,

so that when I turned back
to face the wall again, my eyes held the image of two
hands: yours, fading as I blinked, above my own…

I might never have seen those four faint crescents
in the clay: those marks like a few days
from a calendar of lunar modes, those fingerprints
left by someone with bigger hands than mine,
someone long ago

who must have been the one
to swirl the stucco when the sun-cooked wall was new.
He must have reached

for balance too, and left his mark
above the wood, grasped the sill as I did when someone
called to him. Or was it the perfume
of a woman’s hair as she passed below that turned
his head? Was he startled by an unexpected sound -

not a loud one:
the prints aren’t deep enough - a single strand
of music, some half-heard song, that brushed his cheek,
tickled his ear, in its rush down the long colonnade
of time and sunlight?