Winter 1996 • Vol. XVIII No. 1 Orpheus. Descending.January 1, 1996 |

Sacred Waters

The sun has only a short way to fall behind the Italian Alps, but full dark is a long time coming. These endless evenings draw the ill and elderly out to stroll the gentle switchback trails to the spa's high gardens.   I watch them at dinner, folding warm rolls into their napkins, capping the curative mineral water. In the lift they are silent, formal, holding the bottles as stiffly as vials of mercury or urine samples. Here, the waters are sacred; they fall   from the mountains like white linen, sing in the distance all night, and are precious. Bread serves another purpose: beyond the first gate, the hotel swans ply tended pools, living on bread alone. Waiting. * Porcelain swans swam the glass of my aunt's dining table: wings white as sun, lifted, half-folded—a royal couple, with holes at the spine for dinner candles, whose fine, pale blades curved with our breath, cutting, recutting the mirrored ceiling.   Each endless Sunday I dreamt of smas

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Marjorie Stelmach is the author of three books of poems, most recently Bent Upon Light (Tampa, 2009). She served, until her recent retirement, as the director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis.

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The sun has only a short way to fall behind the Italian Alps, but full dark is a long time coming. These endless evenings draw the ill and elderly out […]

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