Feeling Her Way
—from a photograph by Eudora Welty
Time has woven a map on her face—a spider's odyssey, that web of lines.She leans to her loomset up on a table there on the porchand propped against the flaking clapboard wall.She leans, and the wooden armsof the rush-bottom rocker hug;the rinsed-thin dress, its washed-outpattern of flowers, strains to contain her.The weaver is feeling her way.Is it the texture that tells,or does the intimate heatof each strip of fabric hint of its hue?Grandmotherly stout, Penelope weavesa garment of going, a shroudto be unlaced when no one is looking. No,she's improvising with rags,a web of welcome to feetthat will someday or not enter at sundown,the clodhoppers chucked on the porch, or stepat sunup from under the covers,the bricks at the foot of the bedhearth-hot at bedtime, stone coldwhen winter has bitten through the floorboards.From random scraps she weavesher narrative by touch;counts and you plod, who follows the south endof a northbound mule, and the hard [End Page 533] clay of the furrows reddens your brogans; or humsand you, within the clatter of boxcars, weavea tune through the iron drone of the line.Feeling her way, this blind bard maps you home.
Feeding the Manger
—Santa Maria Maggiore
The wealth of gold and marbleambushed us: the coffered ceiling of gold,the rows of Athenian columns flanking the nave,mosaics depicting to uplifted eyeswhat story our eyes failed to discern,for with vespers commencing, priests were processing,and now it was music of organ and choir,of even the red-skulled bishop intoning that rapt usuntil the words, like seaborne Peter's doubt,turned ether back into air and, breathing, we drownedinto our old sightseeing selveswhose object had been from the startthe Colosseum, of course.
By now the champion cyclistof the Giro d'Italia run had posed with his trophyand gone. Where there had been a mobthere were Sunday amblers. With them we driftedup the Palatine Hill, alongside the Forum,then back past other ditcheswhere maybe a column stood and sometimes a pairwith perhaps a lintel. High up a couple was posing,out on a balcony off to the side of a loggia:framed by the casa's one window,under the pointed arch,he in a uniform, blue, with silver fringing his shoulders,and she, bare-shouldered, in billowing sea-foamas if, the flesh of empire grass [End Page 534] (its gutted skeleton marble),Mars and Venus had taken immaculate formas the couple whose wedding it was.
Our feet, when they carried us back in the morning—Santa Maria, they were the feet of pilgrims.We stood in the chapel beneath the basilica's altarin wedlock transfixed as if by an arrow,in fact by wooden boards:within a tureen of sorts of gold and glass,the wood of a manger.As pilgrims had, if never those three kings,For fifteen hundred footsore years, so wefeasted our eyes? We fed the manger our gazeas if to engender our souls. On top of the shrinea child of gold lolled on a blanket of gold,under it straw, a bed of gold that looked scratchy:the infant Christ, his weight on an elbow,the free arm gesturing Godwardor maybe, with two fingers raised, conferring a blessing.I picture him not as Cupid exactlybut like him twiddling an arrowas if he has caught the shaft of a gazethat like a spear had aimed to wound. [End Page 535]
David Havird's new collection of poetry, Map Home, was published this spring by Texas Review Press. He professes English at Centenary College of Louisiana.