The tourists have eaten the last snail
and must now see the wondrous cannon.
Please hurry! The bus spews blue fumes.
Quick into the tunnel and out with
the sad-faced money. I could say the name
of the country. I could be precise,
yank up the slack and say where I am
among them. Here, where the half-moon
appears to blow smoke rings
over the chapel’s crumbling steeple.
I’m in my raised-eye mind
as the crowd stares up—up
the 838 stone steps I took to get here,
though I turn now and wave.
Oh, is that not polite?
More steps to the belfry, I’m repeating to myself
the curse against myself, and I’m coming
to like it: the breath-fog of it. Hardly
any black medieval rage. I like
its ascent. I like its
Nance Van Winckel’s fourth collection of poetry is Beside Ourselves (Miami University Press, 2003). A new collection of poems is forthcoming from University of Washington Press. She has received two NEA Fellowships and has recent poems in APR, Ploughshares, New Letters, and The Massachusetts Review. She has also published three books of short fiction, most recently Curtain Creek Farm (Persea Books, 2000), and is the recipient of a 2005 Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship and the Patterson Fiction Award. New short stories appear in The Georgia Review and Agni. She teaches in the MFA programs at Eastern Washington University and Vermont College.