By Billy Collins
All afternoon I have been struggling
to communicate in Italian
with Roberto and Giuseppe who have begun
to resemble the two male characters
in my Italian for Beginners,
the ones always shopping, eating,
or inquiring about the times of trains.
Now I can feel my English slipping away,
like chlorinated water through my fingers.
I have made important pronouncements
in this remote limestone valley
with its trickle of a river.
I stated that it seems hotter
today even than it was yesterday
and that swimming is very good for you,
very beneficial, you might say.
I also posed burning questions
about the hours of the archaeological museum
and the location of the local necropolis.
But now I am alone in the evening light
which has softened the white cliffs,
and I have had a little gin in a glass with ice
which has softened my mood or-
how would you say in English-
has allowed my thoughts to traverse my brain
with greater gentleness, shall we say,
or, to put it less literally,
this drink has extended permission
to my mind to feel-what’s the word?-
a friendship with the vast sky
which is very-give me a minute-very blue
but with much great paleness
at this special time of day, or as we say in America, now.
From Nine Horses (Random House)
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