Hospitale Degli Innocenti

Frances Edinger

Florence, in sunlight, remembers
years of women
approaching through shadow and night, with burdens.
Remembers, too, what was always left behind,
what was tucked into the shadow of its walls,
what was a kick through cotton wadding, a hungry wail.
The hospice took each dropped seed, grew it
in the shadow of its facade lined with blue plates.

Outside the walls, in the piazza, the bright glare
of the hospice subjects shadows to these reliefs:
images of infants cast, bundled in stiff wadding
and Della Robbia blue, hung high on the facade.

In sunlight, the piazza's marble radiates
memory; it is a fountain, a confessional,
a hospice: I am the darkest object here.

Each plate above me
is an open armed infant
with a right hand blessing extended.

And in a bright museum to my right
a David stands with sling over left shoulder,
his right hand stretched out.

He is naked behind plexiglas,
kept from the irate axe and acts of God and age
and careful tending.

Were he to stretch and step from history,
receive me with a thoughtful lean of his head,
and whisper look how well I turned out, after all this time;
it would drive me into the piazza again, the sunlight,
where the Della Robbia plates are open to wind.

Once I tried to ditch my Christ at their door,
one in a long line of leavings, and left freed of blessings,
open to age. Florence knows how a sketch turns
to pigment, shadow. How a face or building takes hold,
is impossible to forget once you leave it;
how it follows you and still lives on without you
in sunlight and years: wouldn't exist without you,
though the marble shows no recognition when you touch it with your palm.

Copyright ©1997 Frances Edinger. All rights reserved.

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