To Dream Of Byzantine

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;
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
and dances circles around the courtyard;
the empress Theodora in scuffed sneakers
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 them 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 into complex patterns
that grow from the baseboards in widening arcs.
She has a cat named Constantinople
who watches the process with calm indifference.
When she sleeps she dreams of San Vitale,
of mosaics and obelisks and reflected light.

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