When a commenda was formed,
a swan feather and a handshake,
maybe a smile between the two,
officiated a single trading mission.
(An unofficial finger found its way
onto a pair of eager lips, exploring)
Outside that dusty Venetian office,
the sinking edifice becomes a feeling:
hope, confidence’s pendant. Though
it is anxiety that stops its swinging back.
One stayed precociously with the wares,
the other stayed with a silk heartache.
When I eat with you, I live with you.
You loved with me sardines I brought
from the harbour, not as fat as the ones
in Sicily, and the wine (and our sweat)
made our office warmer than summers.
We made the gravest mistakes together,
we let our breaths wander farther than
sighs of Mediterranean gales that make
touch, kiss, bite, taste saltier, thirstier.
We have flavours to remember us by,
savour the aftertaste, replenish it soon.
Mama said: life is food enjoyed together
Of us two, the one that remains
is referred to as the ‘sedentary’.
The house, the room, the weight
leaning against the doorway until
you’re gone, then spins inside to
become a place to return to. Filled
with soft worries and quieter prayers,
the sedentary then (the personhood,
not the place, though can one even
point out a difference?) writes love
letters at a cheap desk. The hourglass
counts how long it takes to be away.
The sand of the glass, tragic in purpose,
and the grains of ancient Roman roads,
make horses whinny, make eyes tear up,
made the time I hesitated seem illogical,
when I could not bring myself to hold
mama’s hand while her ankles thickened.
Reasons piled up, like the linens wrapped
around old silverware, copper candelabrae.
Cicero couldn’t explain, not with his best
oration yet, no humanitas can clarify, why
the councils organised around wealth won’t
spend it on whom objectively need it more.
We pled for alms; none would let us grieve.
You, rich, loving, but regrettably not enough;
we sent me out to fetch the lucre, an avarice
that we made business, called it commenda,
following the well-travelled roads of capital.
The sounds of thrumming silver, spilling into
curling hands desperate for food and health,
for the simple, final dignity of knowing closure,
these become the echoes where life once was,
bouncing off walls of sad and preventable deaths.
We raised funds for a small goal: keep her house.
Property should be abolished, for many reasons.
One is that people become tied to their luxuries.
Another is the attachment of luxury to people,
that lingering soul shapes one dead as alive again,
memory imbues the blankets she’d slept under,
but only in the form of the emptiness they hid.
The contract was quilled in swans with awful ink:
arranging the sale of goods between party A & B
among which the sheets that still carried her scent,
to be delivered wagonway, far away from Venice.
The profits: split 66/33 between the two of us,
although we would spend all of it on the same.
The sedentary funds the trip, arranges transportation,
signs the contract. The one that travels with the goods
has to venture into dangers (weather and bandits and
disease are the great killers). The commenda is a gambit
with little hope of success or profit, and the sedentary
beats a captive heart in a house empty with worry.
Account for things that can go wrong, and everything
will be imagined wrong, independent of competence.
With no reply to the love letters, empty pigeon talons,
any knock on the door becomes less and less of a hand
you want most: bills, eviction, family intent to do wrong.
Then those familiar bootsteps release a heart held hostage.
Upon return, there is a handshake and a dance,
a temperamental embrace, the clock strikes again,
spurred by the moment of return, of inhalation, of
letting anxiety lay down like a dog a summer later.
Persons return emptier things: houses and inkwells,
even purses, those thrums now a weight of salvation.
Money is an origin of troubled risks, most preventable,
schemed and demanded by the coldness of institutions.
Inexcusable coins calcify while life goes on and goes away,
leaving people to deal with financial hollows (and let’s not
pretend these are not the exact same as emotional ones).
But even abandoned to their own surviving, people will.
And for what it’s worth, I really believe this, so will you.