The Great Questions Were Never Ours

by Joseph Fasano

Joseph Fasano

But whole lives have been wasted on them. Whether
ten-thousand angels can dance on the head

of a pin, or twenty. Whether the body
writhing on the torturer’s table, its twisted hymns

trembling the throne-room, is the crack in the Empire’s
magnificence, or its eyes have seen God.

And no less because they shake no
nations: A man stands on the Ponte Vecchio,

casting his hat on the waters. He watches
the black silk hatband curl out onto the current,

glistening. Should he return to her? Can anything
return? The bridegroom in the ruins. The daughter

by the deathbed. Whether to mourn, whether
to shine. Whether the house in the twisting arms of the fire

is burning, simply burning, or the world is the song
forgiveness would sing, had it the words. Words,

words, words, the sweet Prince
sang, when he was asked what was the matter. Whether

to say them, neighbors, or be them. To sing
or be the song. Come, my brothers

and sisters. It is late. An Empire is dying. Look out
into the summer plums, the sea again.

We stand for years at the edge
of a field, waiting for our lives to return to us

like a woman in a blue, silk dress, staring into the trees.
Look at her: she has been dancing. She has flowers

in her hair, a dance card in her waistband.
The difference between the long lament of exile

and the astonishing art of losing
is whether she will feel the tender, hesitant hand on her shoulder

as diminishment or a thing she has no name for
when it comes again to gather her into the dance.

The Crossing

Last updated November 24, 2022