ON VIEWING DANTE AND BEATRICE BY HENRY HOLIDAY, 1884

Beatriz F. Fernandez

FROM DANTE, TO BEATRICE   
 

In your father’s garden we first met, a pair in exile,
two children playing without a care, in our shared exile.

You were eight, I, nine, you in crimson and I blind
to all else but the fall of your fair hair, from my exile.

For nine years I lived for a word from you, or a smile,
and nightly dreamt of your emerald stare, Love, my exile.

All in white you flowed like the river Arno beside you,
one strong wind would carry us from there, to blissful exile.

But you married another and fled life at twenty-four—
in death’s garden my love, a bloom so rare, thrived in exile.

Live forever in my songs, consume my burning heart, 
over my flayed bones murmur a prayer, dust in exile.

My secret savior, I sang for you alone--to my muse,
my Beatrice, from your Dante, soul bare, so lost in exile.


FROM BEATRICE, TO DANTE 


At the garden party I sought to hide in my secret
spot, and found a boy already ensconced there, secret

friend as you would soon become—so shy was I, 
even my parents I would not dare tell of my secret

regard for you, which grew as you did, so tall, so dark,
all broad shoulders and long legs, in your eyes secrets

which I could not read.  Even as I sensed your gaze follow
me as I strolled with my sisters along the Arno, my secret

longing for you bound my tongue, all I could do was gaze—
back at you—what earthly good could become of this secret

when my father had already chosen my groom-to-be?  
I had no right to speak to you and give you secret

hopes to dream about—all the burden was on my side.
Forced to submit, become a reluctant bride with a secret

hidden deep, so hopeless, so shameful—my love for you
burning like a dagger in my chest, a tormenting secret

with no end in sight.  I welcomed the respite of death
in the face of a life filled with despair, at least my secret  

would die with me—with my last breath I bequeathed you
my memory of you, our shared childish laughter in a secret

garden, your hand in mine, innocent love which lost its way,
a lifetime of longing for you, my Dante, my divine secret.


Previously published by the The Society of Classical Poets

 

BEATRIZ F. FERNANDEZ is a university reference librarian in Florida.  She has read her poetry on WLRN, South Florida’s NPR news station, was the grand prize winner of the second annual Writer’s Digest poetry award, and was featured in the Latina Book Club blog. Her poetry can be found at Boston Literary Magazine, FLARE: the Flagler Review, Northern Liberties Review, Spark: a Creative Anthology, Verse Wisconsin, and Writer’s Digest, among others. She received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2014 and her poetry chapbook, Shining from a Different Firmament, was just published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. Contact her at www.beasbooks.blogspot.com.