Mantua

for Jack

We only ever truly see what we are missing.

That August night in 1328
Luigi Gonzaga brought to Mantua
an ache the size of a city and
a dagger for Rinaldo Bonacolsi.
Gonzaga had a mission: he saw
nine hundred gilded rooms
he and his line must build
and fill with all of Europe’s art –
a model city floating on four lakes,
a Mount Olympus rising from
the flatness of the valley of the Po.

We only ever truly see what we are missing.

Today we visited Gonzaga’s vision:
the palaces, the frescoes, statues,
tapestries, the churches, squares
and streets in all their glory and
grandezza. I was appreciative –
but I’m afraid it did not touch me.
We’d brought a different emptiness
to Mantua; and since it’s true
we only ever see what we are missing –

ah well: I only really saw the dogs.


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