By A Swimming Pool Outside Syracusa

All afternoon I have been struggling
to communicate in Italian
with Roberto and Giuseppe, who have begun
to resemble the two male characters
in my Italian for Beginners,
the ones who are always shopping
or inquiring about the times of trains,
and now I can hardly speak or write English.

I have made important pronouncements
in this remote limestone valley
with its trickle of a river,
stating that it seems hotter
today even than it was yesterday
and that swimming is very good for you,
very beneficial, you might say.
I also posed burning questions
about the hours of the archaeological museum
and the location of the local necropolis.

But now I am alone in the evening light
which has softened the white cliffs,
and I have had a little gin in a glass with ice
which has softened my mood or—
how would you say in English—
has allowed my thoughts to traverse my brain
with greater gentleness, shall we say,

or, to put it less literally,
this drink has extended permission
to my mind to feel—what’s the word?—
a friendship with the vast sky
which is very—give me a minute—very blue
but with much great paleness
at this special time of day, or as we say in America, now.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Billy Collins's poem By A Swimming Pool Outside Syracusa

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