We’ve come to Vernazza to chase a god
and to hear a voice like an outboard full of sand.
We can choose our divinities here—sea, sun, wind
in their easy omnipresence beat all thought down
to flakes of rust, light a powdered blindness
scaling the terraces above the orange trees
where olive blades whittle the air. Gods
carved these paths and stairs, a net
to catch and hold the earth and ravel up the dark.
There should be a story about the sea climbing
these mountains for the love of stars, but broken
by a jealous sun fragmenting into towns like a self
divided into mused virtues musing her fledged origins.
Instead we have groves balanced on rifts of rock
where cliffs fall off the scales and oblivion swallows
us whole, like the train horn in the distance or the thrumming
waves shaping a continent to say we’ve caught
our venal god stealing the dinghies from the storm.
All paths through time wander this way,
down orchard terrace, the same way ours does,
travel carrying us across ragged groves
our stories don’t know how to describe
the weary hours hauling disappointment overland
in sight of tides coiled against the end of journeying.
Italian coastlines draw us
D. S. Butterworth teaches literature and creative writing at Gonzaga University. He has a creative non-fiction book, Waiting for Rain: A Farmer’s Story, and a book of poems, The Radium Watch Dial Painters. His poetry and fiction have appeared in many literary journals.