My favorite city in the world is Florence
And not just any Florence but the tiny one
On a shelf in a photograph from which I laugh
At myself seated in a chair at a desk
In an office that lacks Florence
For an address, so that people when they come
In to say hi or with a work-related question
Sometimes wonder aloud where and when
And though I answer, I never tell them
I’m terrified to have traveled so far
Away from Florence, my face a calendar,
My face a clock. The wife leaning against me
I left on that street, that Florence of an afternoon,
Of a quick cafe and a bit of rain
And a beggar boy who didn’t merit
The camera’s stare, selling sweets from a bag
In a plaza that didn’t make the cut in Baedekers,
The droplets in her hair composed
Of the same dull drizzle as anywhere
So that when it rains in the office parking lot
I am soaked with the rains of Florence
Though no one knows, not even my wife,
To whom Florence belongs equally,
A Florence that hardly matters except to us
No history, no wars or plagues, no inferno
Or paradiso, just two people standing
In the one place on earth no one cares, no one asks
About Florence because they’re already there.

                                                          —David Moolten

  1. A great take on the ability of mind to create. Loved the ending.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Anthony, thanks so much.

  2. Derrick said:

    Hi David,

    I love the internal rhymes you have dotted through this poignant tale. You have created a world for us to wonder about. I love Florence too!

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Derrick,

      Thanks for you kind remarks.

  3. Irene said:

    David, Your technique of a scene within a scene is interesting. And amazing. What happened in ‘that Florence of an afternoon?’ Is that a private world? And so, the reason no one asks about Florence is because they’re already there, in their own private universe of places, anyway….

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Irene,

      Thank you. Yes, part of the wistfulness of this is that there is even in the sharing of something so special, a solitude as well. It’s I alone in my office staring at the picture much of the time, which made me think of the isolation of experience in general, how solitary we are even in our sharing.

  4. As usual, very lovely…I enjoyed how you left unanswered questions, and how the description of your face denotes that the Florence you think about was long ago…

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Cynthia!

  5. How I long to soak with the rains of Florence – your poem has continued the thought drizzle of “I need to go there, soon…soon… soon…”

    It is almost like the journey is in motion now. So vivid!

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Julie. You should go!

  6. This comes to mind.Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca saying
    ‘We’ll always have Paris’

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Rall. I love that movie.

  7. I like the way the portrayal of the experience of Florence is so personal that, even though the photograph is publicly displayed, not even “the wife” knows quite what Florence means to her husband. Your poem speaks beautifully to the complex ways in which we share intimate experience and yet are, to some degree, always alone in it.I particularly love these lines:

    The droplets in her hair composed
    Of the same dull drizzle as anywhere
    So that when it rains in the office parking lot
    I am soaked with the rains of Florence


    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks Paul. There’s something so personal and intimate about experiencing a place, and no way anyone else can quite have the same impression of it. I suppose that ‘s true for other things in life. But places are so seemingly public, to use your accurate word. Full of people and yet also solitude.

  8. Linda said:

    An ode to the part of the brain called a memory and the ability of the brain to relate what we remember to other instances, sharing the magic and keeping the memory alive. I’ve always wanted to visit Florence. If it is this magic, I cannot wait! Thanks for sharing this happy upbeat twist on a sombre prompt, David.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks! If you have a chance to go to Florence, go. It’s great; the rest of Italy is too for that matter. But Florence is pretty special. Venice is also a no-miss visit.

  9. Wow, I love this! So glad you’ve become a RWP regular.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks so much. I’m also glad I’ve become a regular. There is unique camaraderie, talent, and passionate involvement here, nothing else like it on the net.

  10. Photographs within photographs, like mirrors seem to go on into infinity and lose time somewhere. But you did keep time “I’m terrified to have traveled so far Away from Florence, my face a calendar, My face a clock.” and keep memory in perspective.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Barbara. You’re right about the mirror comparison; there is something recursive about photographs, and seeing yourself looking out at yourself, the photographed “you” being so impassive and oblivious as compared to the real you.

  11. Ana said:

    I enjoyed how we got introduced to severaldifferent cities called Florence:Baedekers’ Florence, the beggar boy’s Florence, your Florence…
    A photograph freezes time , they shall put them in those glass balls for they are an world in themselves…And how well you captured the passing of time : “my face a calendar, my face a clock” in both its subjective and objective dimenssion…

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Ana,

      Thank you. You’re right about photographs; they are so indispensable and precious, and yet there is something cold and indifferent about them too.

  12. djvorreyer said:

    I really enjoyed the cyclical nature of the language as a way to keep drawing us, along with the speaker, back to Florence as the central yet diverse subject of memory.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you. I was trying to get at how memory felt, at least for me, that combination of pain and pleasure.

  13. angie said:

    this part really strikes me:

    And though I answer, I never tell them
    I’m terrified to have traveled so far
    Away from Florence, my face a calendar,
    My face a clock.

    this poem brings to my mind that unspoken fear of aging, of growing away from the things you love.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Angie. I’m glad that my underlying feeling came through.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Tamra.

  14. Shayla said:

    Wow. The beginning of this poem drew me in immediately, and it captured me the whole time. I think this is my favourite poem to have been born out of this prompt.

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thanks so much for your enthusiastic response. I am honored, as there were quite a few good ones, including yours. As a parent I am aware of the way my moods can change suddenly and what impact that can have on my kids. Your poem definitely reached me.

  15. poetryaboutart said:

    David — Why do I hear Garrison Keillor reading this poem out loud with his usual genuis, albeit a kind of ennui? Because I hear a voice that’s a bit dry, a bit droll, a bit sad, a bit weary, a bit self-deprecating ( “I laugh / At myself..”) The voice in this poem is quite different from the voices in your other poems. It grabbed my attention right away! This is a great skill — to be able to write in different voices. I commend you.
    The repetition of “Florence” so many times reminds us readers how fundamental repetition is to all poetry — repetition alone can change meaning, can shift connotation with each iteration (“the Florence of an afternoon”). In this poem, the repetition makes the reader aware that a place which is seemingly so obviously, so insistently, THERE is not there, or is there two times, or was there, or is there only in a photo or memory, or is there in a wife, or is there only in a poem or in Dante. You’re playing peek-a-boo with us (like Kay Ryan does). Where, exactly, IS the external or internal scene in this scene-set poem?
    Moreover, you really live in Philadelphia, the sister city of Florence. So you do, indeed, live in Florence — or at least in its twin, its reflection. (Of course, the voice in the poem may not be the real voice of you, the living resident of Philly.)
    (The one question I really want to ask is whether your wife’s name is Florence?)

    • davidmoolten said:

      Hi Therese,

      Thanks so much for your generous analysis and praise. Yes, the voice is a bit more personal and wry here. You’re right about Philadelphia being Florence’s “sister” city; though there’s not as much resemblance as I would like. My wife’s name is Sharon, not Florence. I actually like the Italian name better, Firenze. For me there is a little Heraclitus and a little Roberto Juarroz in this. Here, no other person can step in the same river (variation on Heraclitus), as every place, everything is personal and uniquely experienced. But also Juarroz (who disputes Heraclitus in one of his “vertical poems” and, remembering some summer day with wistful fondness, speaks of drinking “that glass of water twice”) because you can go back again and again; the place enters you like water; you become that place.

  16. that certain light of a photo in our everyday life…beautiful

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you.

  17. Marian said:

    I’m a newbie, so reading the other comments is illuminating.
    I enjoyed this poem. I read Florence as both the place and the name of loved one in the photo. so the phrase “In an office that lacks Florence” felt especially melancholy

    • davidmoolten said:


      Thanks for your feedback. I was trying for melancholy/ nostalgia so I’m glad that came across.

  18. wayne said:

    wonderful Dave….thanks again for sharing

    • davidmoolten said:

      Thank you Wayne

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