She admired Byzantine architecture,
having studied it one long ago summer
under a young professor whose ancestors
lived and died in Crete; he had carried
in his suit pocket a Justinian coin
that he claimed was real though it bore no date.
She bends brass and copper wire
into facsimiles of the Hippodrome,
of Hagia Sophia; when time allows she
sculpts the Theodosian Walls from toothpicks
and hides her face behind their structure.
On days when clouds bank the sun,
she fashions a toga from a lilac sheet,
dances circles around the courtyard;
the empress Theodora in scuffed sneakers
and a wreath of yellow pansies for a crown.
Neighborhood boys sometimes toss tomatoes
plucked from their mother's gardens-
those that do not burst into ripe flowers
across lilac and brick she gathers up;
leaves in a woven basket outside the gate
for the mailman or the milkman to enjoy.
She kneels every night on her polished floor,
carefully glues colored glass and stone and tile
into complex patterns that grow
from the baseboards in widening arcs.
She has a cat named Constantinople
who watches the process with indifference.
When she sleeps she dreams of San Vitale,
of mosaics and obelisks and reflected light.