I was betrayed by Bohemia early
in my life and left a run-down hotel
with my eye swollen shut by an insect bite
but got my revenge in France and Italy
and wasn’t bitten once in those two countries.
I swore off free meals and book-stealing
both there and elsewhere and
if I got something for nothing
it wasn’t by schnorring
so have a heart, pedagogus.
Think of Baudelaire and his clouds
or Michelangelo on his step ladder
putting a little spit in for tone
and a gob or two for substance
just to please the flunkies down there
even as they kicked the wooden legs
their tongues out in excitement
though I have to interrupt to say
God did it with a voice not a finger,
Copyright © 2016 by Gerald Stern. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.