©Evan Nichols, 2012

They have no idea how beautiful they are.
The boy folded into his chair,
one long leg bent beneath him,
sits across from the only girl
at the table of five in the corner
of this plastic-covered,
gas-heated sidewalk extension of the café.
Elegant neck bent, sweet, lopsided smile, I can see
he wishes she were his Juliet.

Lovely, long-haired, soft-eyed, she’s warmed
by the admiration of the boys.
At her side her Romeo is quietly proud,
handsome Roman head held high.

Enter Mercutio:
t-shirt, baggy pants
(Italian-style, not crotch-down-to-the-knees-
cartoon-American style).
He’s tall, thin, hair just a little wild.
All the boys shake his hand—
more cool, I guess, than the two-cheek kisses
Italian adults exchange.
He keeps up a fast banter
that has them smiling—
fancy Queen Mab talk no doubt.
In the tragedy Mercutio riffs on the fairies’ midwife:
her hazelnut coach, tiny horses with moonbeam halters,
a gnat for a coachman—
then cleverly turns to ladies on their backs,
Mab teaching them how to bear.

They gather here at this café, the teens,
hormonal and handsome,
smoking too much.

Always, in every adolescent crowd,
the lovers, the brilliant goofy side-kick.
Back in San Francisco Sharrona
could sling a sonnet in a slam
quick as Shakespeare’s famous fated lovers at the dance,
palm to palm and trading fourteen lines.
You bring out the Cherokee in me,
the Egyptian Queen, the Juliet in me,
And I can still see Greg, legs dangling down,
head and shoulders out of the bus-top escape hatch,
hear the Muni bus driver yelling I’m pulling over. You’re all getting out!

Or Adonis Ferentinos, pale-skinned Greek
with an Afro, permed to compliment his hip black talk,
his old Cadillac, his forbidden lover
from the Black Muslim church.
I was their Friar Lawrence, but only kept their secret,
no potions, just blessings.

Always, everywhere,
the beautiful skin, the shining eyes.
And the tragic catch.
Sometimes, they die.
Young and beautiful.

Like the boy I saw,
here in Florence just the other day,
so still
on the cobblestones,
beside his fallen motorbike—
Was a Juliet
somewhere
waiting for him?

©Judy Bebelaar, 2012

BAWP changed Judy Bebelaar’s teaching life, and now it keeps her going as a writer, thanks to Room to Write, Write Easy and Digital Paper.

One Response to “Florence, Café Zoe by Judy Bebelaar”

  1. John Levine Says:

    Oh. So evocative. And the end caught me by complete surprise. Well done, Judy.

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