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Dove Sta Memoria
Matthew Porto (bio)

Modern graphologists can tell when an ancient scribe
didn’t know what they were copying, since the ink thins
mid-phrase, the meter breaks mid-beat.

As Joseph’s brothers, loving a remembered truth,
formed a grove of bodies in the palace hall,
somewhere within, in a closed room, a drooping scribe
readied his pen to copy the Battle of Kadesh. Perhaps,
decades later, he would copy their story too, knowing
nothing of the strange symbols pressed into the papyrus,
nothing of the foreign boy—his coat and his beauty,
his favor before God, his arrogant dreams—nothing of
the great irony that a Hebrew became vizier of Egypt.

Filling the scroll anyway, he loves the way the letters
gather like villages along the Nile—as he draws
a moist finger along his eyelid irritated by dust—
loves not knowing if he marked a sentence end
or the beginning of a new chapter altogether,
with the thicker stroke that follows the wetting of the reed.

1 From Italian poem “Donna me prega” by Guido Cavalcanti (c 1255-1300). The words can be translated as “where memory is” and in the context of Cavalcanti’s poem refer to the place in the mind where love is located.


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