When we got in my cousin said
let’s climb that hill. We had just
got in from Rome and Cantelice
twisted away from the second story

window in cobble and brick. I
had been warned against scorpions
in the bath by my tante Nicole and
had overheard my mother addressing

Onkel Jens like a brother. At the toilet
seat I stood tiptoe pissing and looking
out across the town to that unsur-
mountable summit covered in scraggly

brush and rutted it seemed by
a large scraping hand with uncut
fingernails. Let’s climb that hill
he said again while I zipped up.

My cousin continental and blonde-
haired was bigger than me and partly
French conversant with women and
cigarettes and able to take life lightly

in stride. I was then not. Growing
out of one youth into another more
shameful more conscious of sweating
my way. He childless still rounder

now lobbies in Brussels backing
eccentrics and chasing older
women seemed always a symbol
of the charming and underhand ease

of a man in the world. Before the
inevitable I won’t say disappointments
but let’s put it this way: before
his old charm of being in the know

turned into the charm of lost causes.
But let’s climb that hill he said let’s
climb that hill if you’ve finished
pissing around so we fought our way

scratching and fly-bitten to the windy
top and looked down.