Venetian Siesta

I know I’m getting away with a crime
stretched out on the couch
and listening to rain
making a hole in the afternoon
through which I can drift slowly away

for sleep is sometimes
just as delicious
as white polenta and grilled angle fish.
So I give up my hands,
my tears and my face,
the smells of tar,
damp rope and mud,
the late slanted light of November
rippling below on the gondola wood

and then I count backwards from 27
trying to pretend I’m Wallace Stevens
he of the freakish intellect
and the taste of a ruthless
wandering gourmet
who rummages in the mystical kitchen
in search of oranges and café espresso
or a blown glass peacock
or a Byzantine horse
cast in some delicate metal.

He speaks of the world,
how it’s changed by art
and bread you can’t eat
powdered with light
where someone is toasting
their mother’s health
and someone is writing a letter to death
which makes things beautiful
in its way
and also makes everyone the same
as laughter does
or the late autumn rain.

Copyright © 2021 by Joseph Millar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.