Monday, December 13, 2004

Canterbury Tale

The flowers she buys at the grocery
spray from a jam jar, though we
can afford crystal now.
When in April, twenty years ago,
on a campus sidewalk, stopped
by a glance of sunlight on a bell tower,
she exclaimed, "How like this is
to Canterbury" — but pronounced it
canta-bree — I, Georgia cracker, frustrated
Anglo-, Italo-, Francophile,
was stunned, struck down by love, like
Dante by Beatrice, by her whiff
of cucumber sandwiches and tea cakes,
her skin like gold museum glint
on gesso, her legs of pink
Carrara marble, and her Jamesian claim
that American men were inferior
to European. So I scratched
my shaggy skull for foreign words,
took up opera, told her
I wrote poetry.

Turns out, she was from
Mississippi, and, Reader,
I married her — the salt lick
of her, the swish
of ceiling fans, afternoon
pinking the pillars of cloud
over the Gulf, gouache
of gumbo, pentimento
of peppery boiled crabs,
all washed down by
sweet tea in a jam jar.

William Greenway
The Southern Review
Autumn 2004

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