Maureen Tolman Flannery
Where Time Faltered
Outside Mantua, Italy, archeologists unearthed
a pair of human skeletons from the Neolithic period
locked in embrace.
Of course they were lovers.
It was land that would come to be Italy.
Complicit sun peered through poplars and warmed
suggestive paths among not-yet-domesticated olive trees.
They had raced away from their day’s tasks—
his hunting the four-point stag,
hers gathering the plumpest blackberries.
Needing no fermented juice to feel intoxicated,
she maneuvered through barbed rose vines
which future millennia would coax into bearing grapes
and met him there, in a grove of trees,
bird busy and humming with summer air.
They whispered and sang in imitation
of the nightingale that discovered their love
and announced it to observant clouds.
Late into the morning, lying entwined,
they ate scrub kumquats off each other’s tongues.
He combed her long dark locks with parted fingers
as his lips followed the golden trough
from her shoulder blades to where he licked salt
at the two shallow pools between her hips.
She waded waist-deep into his eyes and retreated
to the beach of sky so she could breathe again.
Time, confounded by arrangement of their limbs,
could find neither its bearings nor its stride.
As desire wound a wild vine around their adoration,
bound them to that indentation in the grass,
Time, unable to pass by, drowsed, yawned
and settled in beside them
for a brief, five-thousand-year sleep.