Monday, 23 July 2012

Stone Step

It seems an idle thought 
To covet a neighbour’s worn stone step.
And yet, thus polished, cupped, hollowed out,
How tenderly it betrays
A million million journeys from and to.

“Il aime les vieilles pierres,”
Declared the padre, once, perceptively of me,
In the craggy little hilltop foreign town,
Where every step is worn like this,
And even I may boast my own.

Against winter snowfalls and mountain rains
Our clustered roofs, vertiginous all,
Of silvery shale like sun-glinting carp,
Need gentle, light-footed artisans
To caress and coax each into health.

So while town-folk gather for mute, dull chores,
And chat and chide and jostle in bars,
Above me, in plain view, barely yards away,
Picked out, Apollonian, against an azure sky:
An awkward, beautiful, unlikely god.

In loafers, jeans, and rumpled shirt,
The old roofer tips and tilts on precipitous tile ridge.
A thick rope, lightly held, is his only scaffold.
With envy and longing I watch his silent, fairy steps,
This paragon; such courage: if but I were he.