We bought great ornamental oranges,
Mexican cookies, a fragrant yellow tea.
Browsed the bookstores. You
asked mildly, “Bob, who is Ugo Betti?”
A bearded bird-like man
(he looked like a Russian priest
with imperial bearing
and a black ransacked raincoat)
turned to us, cleared
his cultural throat, and
told us both interminably
who Ugo Betti was. The slow
filtering of sun through windows
glazed to gold the silky hair
along your arms. Dusk was
a huge weird phosphorescent beast
dying slowly out across the bay.
Our house waited and our books,
the skinny little soldiers on the shelves.
After dinner I read one anyway.
You chanted, “Ugo Betti has no bones,”
and when I said, “The limits of my language
are the limits of my world,” you laughed.
We spoke all night in tongues,
in fingertips, in teeth.
by Robert Hass from Field Guide (1973)