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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017


by Claire Hsu Accomando

Too many years ago on a lavender morning,
we are the only two descending the train near Assisi.
Behind us, the sun wakes, causing pebbles to cast shadows.
You say your name is Paul. You’re twenty. I’m seventeen.

The scent of rosemary makes us ravenous. On both sides
of the road, pale wheat sways, unveiling dark-eyed
poppies with scarlet faces. Our shoes leave
modern soleprints on the sunburned soil of centuries.

Church bells draw us to the summit of the golden hilltown.
In a street wide enough for a wheelbarrow you carry
two folding chairs from Rome as a present for your parents
in France. Imagine, plastic chairs in this medieval city.

At noon, the twin churches glow as if transfigured.
I think of Saint Francis wearing burlap, walking barefoot
on these cobblestones. I see him and his brother monks,
lifting rock upon rock to shape the houses of God.

As you climb the narrow steps, the flowers
in the pocket of your backpack nod.
They’re to be split between the basilicas, poppies
for San Francesco, corn flowers for Santa Chiara.

Too many years ago on an eye-blink summer morning
we were the only two getting off the train near Assisi.
You said your name was Paul. You were twenty then.
And where are you today, Paul?


—Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Claire Hsu Accomando’s

work is published in Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, and San Diego Writers Ink. She is the author of a memoir, Love and Rutabaga: A Remembrance of the War Years (St. Martin’s Press, 1993).

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury