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Vernazza Daydreams

"We were dizzy with ourselves"

Published onJun 02, 2024
Vernazza Daydreams

Photo by Jakub Zerdzicki:

For Fred

From sixteenth-century towers
villagers once warned of Saracen raiders
their signal fires blazed across the night sky
like meteors 

They ran
pounding the Cinque Terre coastal trail
fleeing to stone fortresses
sometimes finding sanctuary 

We hiked their path
your long legs stalwart
my new hip joints delivering
on promises
I didn’t quite believe 

We walked through lemon trees and olive groves
leaned over wooden railings where the cliffs
plunge to a heaving green-blue sea
imagined pirates anchored in the bay

We switch backed through terraced vineyards
hanging with golden grapes
You picked just one
its sweetness burst on my tongue 

On the trail, a young man held his girlfriend’s hand
balanced her
as she high-stepped atop an ancient wall
in stiletto heels 

I trekked the twisting turning path
gnarled with roots in sturdy footgear
you’d try to catch me
if I fell 

At last we reached Belforte
stronghold now for hungry hikers
perched on the tower’s last table
basked in the sun

We drank in the sweeping Mediterranean
the horizon disappearing into gray-blue sky
the marvel of Vernazza’s tall jewel-colored houses
chiseled into the cliffs 

I discreetly shook pebbles out of my hiking boots
wiped a smear of dust from my forehead
Around us families in summer suits and flowered dresses
murmured to each other
ate their decorous Sunday lunch 

We were as ravenous as those villagers who fled
marauders fifteen hundred years ago
My plate of dark shelled mussels swam
in wine and garlic
Your lobster, octopus and shrimp
spilled over the serving platter 

We tore at crusty bread 
ordered two liters of local wine
crisp white for me
red for you 

We clinked glasses
toasted our journey, our sanctuary
We were dizzy with ourselves

From our aerie
we cheered on reckless swimmers
diving off obsidian cliffs
into green foaming waves
living their thrill 

We floated in our hazy daydream
watched sailboats skim over the water
shared spoonfuls of sweet cream gelato
flecked with chocolate 

To make the last train
back to Florence
we should’ve run 

down at the harbor
the ferry slid up to the stone pier
So instead we scrambled
scored the last seats topside

Kicked back
rode along the coastline
in a shimmering dream
imagined we were pirates
the day still ours

Elizabeth Fletcher’s poems have appeared in The Cape Cod Times, Spaceports & Spidersilk, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Book of Matches, and the Ekphrastic Review among others. She was a 2023 Rhysling Award nominee and a 2021 Pushcart prize nominee. Her Philadelphia Inquirer publications include essays on sea turtles and Snowy owls.



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