Valorie Grace Hallinan recently left her position as a clinical librarian at UR Medicine to write full time. Her articles, essays, and poetry have appeared in Loveliest Magazine, Great Lakes Review, Verse-Virtual, Origins, Library Journal, The Democrat & Chronicle, and other publications.
A former book editor, she believes books can save lives and founded a blog by that name. She is at work on a memoir. Ms. Hallinan lives in Rochester, New York.
Spent from love, half a life old, I fled to find
hard comfort here: blood oranges, Etna’s hot breath,
rock—jet black, pock-marked.
Sahara sand, drifting across a silent sea,
settles on my pale, northern skin.
The great white bones of temples litter the land like
toys left behind by wayward children.
Jealous gods demanded the blood of lambs,
mortals to bear the heft and weight of stone upon stone.
My hand against a column is infinitesimal.
A mountainside chapel cool, dim after burning sun
shelters the faded devotion of some nameless artist.
A month, a year, a life to fill a cathedral with lapis lazuli and gold,
carve a mother’s cheek, a baby’s fist,
paint a man who died a perfect death
My thin Protestant blood has never seen such passion.
I am my grandmother’s face; I see my father’s eyes.
We are a thousand races.
Angelo, second cousin (once removed?) fashions miniature Nativities—
buckets of donkey feed, jugs of olive oil, stacks of unleavened bread.
I fall in love with smiling Tina, 87,
4’8”. Worlds fly in translation—
Tia, figlia, nonni.
We look at photographs—a husband in uniform,
aunts young again in 1950s aprons.
Tina showers me with hugs and kisses.
We are together twenty minutes, not enough for a lifetime.
I bathe in the waters of Sicily.
Rind of lemon gives way to
flesh, the tangy spray tickles collarbone and breast.
Carpets of purple clover, poppy polka-dots, yellow broom beckon—
I could wrap them around me like a shawl.
And now, home.
Still loving; loving more.
I will go back to Tina, walk with her to the market,
sit beside her, wordless, as she knits and we watch the light
fade in the piazza.
All poems on this post: © Valorie Grace Hallinan
Published with the permission of Valorie Grace Hallinan