Florence By Night

Photo taken by the author in 2013, in Florence, IT

the romantic facade hides
a gaunt face with rusty teeth, shiny
with venom — you can see it
glistening on the surface of the Arno, iron
struts hold pedestrians above it,
a sham of security — this city
a gaping maw carved out from
a drug-addled cerebrum
(sharp scents flood Piazza Duomo
2 am every night, a giant exhale)
all this behind a stolen carnivale mask,
a bone-yellow, garish lacquer over the old
bricks of Santa Reparata to fake
innovation and pile together Santa Maria del Fiore
in blank stone ripped from red decay within
the city’s sodding bejeweled corpse;
it still stinks, no matter how many
gaudy gilded tablecloths are draped
over the rotten bits —

it can never be
the city of renaissance lovers and Chianti-begotten dreams
that the tourists long for, never again, no — 
this strangely saccharine cesspool is composed
of hungry needs and dented hearts:
the eyes of passerby scream of it,
you can almost see their chests gaping
open, organs dangling by strings
of sinew, edging a line of
loss made farce when seen
through a filter of not-so-accidental leers and joking catcalls —

to see truth, just wear a tight skirt
and walk with a sway
through your hips
through the leather market
through the shadow of San Lorenzo’s basilica
and every straight man will stare at your ass like
a crooked rake who wants to take you
ride you down to the cobblestones
screaming right under the Catholic saints
cast in marble there on the church steps — 
all without so much as noticing their own wolfish grins — 
an epitome of infantile sentience
and pubescent hormones
rolled into a terrifying species
I cannot save —

from San Marco to Santo Spirito, after dark
these unintentional predators
these damned parasites swarm about the seemingly weak — 
if you aren’t careful, they’ll engulf you, add you to the city’s collection:
with each stolen kiss,
each lurid embrace,
the rotten carcass of the once-great city breathes, existing one more second
to ensnare a new host with its flock of hands and mouths,
draining lifeblood and feigning little heartbeats
between gasps of real

For the record, I loved studying abroad in Italy, and realize how lucky I am that my undergraduate scholarships and supportive family made it possible. However, if you liked this piece, and want to contribute to the “Help Kat Stop Accruing Debt to Family Members” fund, click here to help me pay for healthcare and living expenses. If you’re strapped for cash, know that I can empathize, and please consider sharing my work on social media and/or hitting the ’recommend’ button on this page. Thanks!

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