It was always a game for him
A quick study, a survivor
Mastering the art of escape
In his city it was easy to wear masks
At carnival, as a Venetian knight
Letting crushing crowds sweep in
Chasing shadows. Leaping gondolas
Racing across the Piazzetta
Refusing to be taken out of life
He promised himself. One thing.
To love. Not hate. To believe.
And then he found her.
A scampi of a girl. Smiling.
About his age. Wide toothy grin.
Long bronzed hair pulled back
Selling spiky pink blooms in the sun
She spoke of distant country hills
And gathering exotic armfuls
Of antoniettas, cardoni,
irises, lilies, and sunchokes
He invented things. To impress.
Cover up. She listened. Nodded.
Followed him home. Crouching outside
A silent interlocutor, praying as he fell
Blows crashing. His papa’s bottle. Striking.
Making him take the blame for his mama
Dying. Because she’d given him his life
Ilario’s guilt solid as steel armour. Taking it.
The girl always wanting to let him know
She cared. But fearing if she did. He’d break.
For she understood the weight of water
Encroaching on the foundations daily
A strange destiny. Bound by tears.
It was only long after his papa died
That Ilario awoke. La vita bene
Owned up to mistakes. Held onto dreams.
Took nothing for granted. Learned to laugh
His Ristorante Impressario overflowing
Crowds rushing in and out as tides
He held it close, like a baby. Seldom left.
But when he did, sipping a Brio
At night, staring towards the lagoon
He thought about her. His girl.
Saw her take his hand long ago
Making him run like the wind.
© 2013 S. Michaels
Seven Love Stories – Ilario & Eliana