When Vizcaya Was Mine
By Nikki Moustaki Brandt
I was twelve, on a school trip, and while the other kids
ran blindly through the sculptured shrubbery,
mouths loud and sneakered feet dumb to the history
of this place, I closed my eyes and imagined I was the lady
of this house, how I’d take the morning to meander
down gravel pathways set out in neat curves and lines,
rain from earlier hours soaking the hem of my gown,
and how later I’d accompany friends by gondola to the barge
where we would take cold tea and finger sandwiches
in the long-gone cupola all afternoon, pinkies held high
as we sip from Italian cups, and then retire to the grotto
for a swim in blue water beneath the orchids.
The voices around me tugged on this fantasy,
and I looked at my untied shoelaces, at the ragged
hem of my dusty jean cuffs. When I squinted ahead,
the rest of my class had left me behind.
I didn’t run to catch up. I strolled. I owned this house, after all.
I lived here. I slept here. I dreamed here. Vizcaya was mine.
Many years and dreams have passed since then. I have no
European garden of my own. No patterned marble floor.
No vaulted arches. No golden harp. No mosaics or statues or trees
ripe with hanging moss. No gilded walls. No twinkling chandeliers.
But still, now, I stand at the top of the limestone steps at Vizcaya,
staring through the yellow light into the garden,
and wonder how many other people lived here too,
in their own minds, and if there was room for all of us.
Nikki Moustaki Brandt is the recipient of a national endowment for the arts award in poetry and holds MFAs from both Indiana University and New York University. She is the author of the recent memoir, The Bird Market of Paris, from Henry Holt & Company.