By Derek Walcott
Roads shouldered by enclosing walls with narrow
cobbled tracks for streets, those hill towns with their
stamp-sized squares and a sea pinned by the arrow
of a quivering horizon, with names that never wither
for centuries and shadows that are the dial of time. Light
older than wine and a cloud like a tablecloth
spread for lunch under the leaves. I have come this late
to Italy, but better now, perhaps, than in youth
that is never satisfied, whose joys are treacherous,
while my hair rhymes with those far crests, and the bells
of the hilltop towers number my errors,
because we are never where we are, but somewhere else,
even in Italy. This is the bearable truth
of old age; but count your benedictions—those fields
of sunflowers, the torn light on the hills, the haze
of the unheard Adriatic—while the day still hopes
for possibility, cloud shadows racing the slopes.
The blue windows, the lemon-colored counterpane,
the knowing that the sea is behind the avenue
with balconies and bicycles, that the gelid traffic
mixes its fumes with coffee—transient interiors,
transient bedsheets, and the transient view
of sea-salted hotels with spiky palms,
in spite of which summer is serious,
since there is inevitably a farewell to arms,
to the storm-haired beauty who will disappear.
The shifted absence of your axis, love
wobbles on your body's pivot, to the carriage's
shudder as it glides past the roofs and beaches
of the Ligurian coast. Things lose their balance
and totter from the small blows of memory.
You wait for revelations, for leaping dolphins,
for nightingales to loosen their knotted throats,
for the bell in the tower to absolve your sins
like the furled sails of the homecoming boats.
Saturday morning we got up early to go to the St Louis Zoo when it opened at 8. On a nearly 100-degree day, this was the perfect time to arrive, before it got beastly hot and the animals started drooping -- we had the bird house and flight cage pretty much to ourselves and many of the birds were singing, and in the herpetarium, the snakes and lizards were wriggling in their enclosures. We had been told that this was a must-visit zoo for the penguin habitat, and it did not disappoint: Humboldts outside in a rocky enclosure with stone tunnels for nesting, where they swam and brayed and paraded around for us, plus Kings, Gentoos, and Rockhoppers inside in 45-degree air conditioning with an open enclosure above the waterline, meaning there was no condensation-heavy glass between us and the birds!
The St. Louis Zoo is free and large enough that it's impossible to cover in half a day, but we managed to see a lot: the amphibians and insects (including a butterfly garden); the big African mammals like elephants, hippos, giraffes (who had a baby), and zebras (who were expecting); the bears and great cats; the sea lions, prairie dogs and warthogs; and the 1904 World's Fair flight cage, as well as the puffins and polar bear housed near the penguins. We had lunch at one of the zoo's air conditioned sandwich shops and left around 2 p.m. when it was getting beastly hot!
The Humboldt penguins, which can tolerate heat, were fed outside in their enclosure...
...which made them so happy that they honked for the zookeeper.
Inside, the King penguins waited for the Gentoos before getting their fish.
Elsewhere, the animals had different strategies for coping with the heat. The sea lion tipped himself into the water...
...while the tiger paced back and forth in his pool...
...and the adult giraffes tried to coax their baby into the shade.
Meanwhile, in the herpetarium, the spectacled caimans, whose range extends nearly to the equator, seemed not at all bothered by the weather.
After several hours of driving and an hour lost crossing the timeline, we had dinner in Terre Haute, Indiana with mamadracula at an Applebee's where we all got the three-course meal deals so we could have dessert. Then we drove another few hours to Richmond, Indiana so the final leg of our trip would be less than ten hours. There's a Model T 100th anniversary festival going on at the fairgrounds here this week, so the hotel parking lot is full of magnificent old cars. Hopefully I'll be home by this time Sunday night!