Two college kids traveled
to Florence one summer,
their passports pristeen
like the school uniforms
they’d outgrown
a few years before.

Sending purple doves into the sky
and angels soft like cotton
to their shoulders,
the bells ringing from Il Duomo
were a far cry
from the ones back home
that rang over the
elementary school parking lot.

The murmurs of Renaissance friars,
echoing against the walls,
their tales of popes and mistresses,
swirling high into the gilded air,
mesmerized them
in a way fatherly tales
at the dining table did not.

They held conversations with Medici ghosts
on the way to the statue of David,
where they hushed each other
and stood reverential
to the stone.

Italian children
burst onto their neighborhood stage
after a day at school.
With his backpack dragging,
a boy called to his friend
— Alesio! Alesio! –
playing the forlorn like an opera star
in his own little matinee
down a narrow street.

How would the drama end?
Suddenly football didn’t seem so exciting.

At dusk the teenagers rented mopeds
to climb the hills of the city.
Each acceleration on the pedal
sped up their young love,
consummated on a flimsy bed
at the hostel that morning.

The girl took a spill
at a bend in the road
on the way down the hill.

Mechanics at a gas station
offered bandages for the bloody knee
and confirmed the machine was OK,
with a prego prego and handshake for the boy
and a ciao bella for the girl,
sounding in their goodbyes
like opera stars.

“Two Teenagers on Mopeds in Florence” is the fourth poem published in Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss, a collection that Sally O’Dowd is publishing in stages.

Image credit: Album cover, Two Young Fires, Paul Young. Photographer: John Swannell.

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