At the Hotel Duomo, Orvieto, Italy

 

Wilda Morris

 

I haven't figured out the art on the wall

of my hotel room. In the dim light

seeping between heavy drapes

I see only outlines.

 

Maybe it's a pollywog, I tell myself,

like the ones that swam the creek

I played in as a child. If I come back

next year, it may have morphed

into a frog. I will listen for its croak

at dusk, let it lull me to sleep.

 

But, no, I think, it is a balloon let loose

on a windy day, the string floating out

behind it. The currents must be strong

to send it flying so fast the string

is almost horizontal. It may sail into a tree

or over the duomo, beyond the hill

on which Orvieto stands, even beyond

the homes and vineyards in the valley below.

 

I turn on one side, still able to see

the tailed circle. Then I know: it is one sperm

ready to impregnate the egg of an idea,

one idea seeking a mate with which to merge,

placed here to serve as muse

for a seminal thought in the night

when I should be sleeping.

I reach for my pen.

 

But, alas, when I turn on the light, I see

the tail is no tail, no string. It ends

in an arrowhead pointing away

from the bloated circle. I'm back where I started

in the dark, no hint of the artist's intent,

but with an added conundrum, a question

whether a reader will say the same thing

about these lines scribbled in bed,

half awake, half in a dream.