After the aftershocks,
at the edge of the infinity pool
let us gather
across the valley from a pink and white charade
where intact stonework hides the ruins
of a fallen town;
let’s join together
where a firefly sparks the dusk between tilting tables,
and everything’s a lantern: a champagne flute,
a bowl of shining olives,
this man and his darling,
like those farmers on the slopes of Santorini, making wine
with a volcanic glow. They want to speak their promises
from a lip of danger,
while kids from Rome go crazy on the terrace, pull apart
white satin bows, play Find-the-Tortoise all around
the lemon trees, fall into rough grass to gaze up
at multiplying stars
all the days of their lives
in this hamlet whose ovens
once more scent the night with
a dry warm breath of loaves
WILD ORCHIDS, CASTORIANA
Clay clumps cascade
under our boots, dry twigs rattle
in the brims of our hats.
Here’s where they grow.
The little people.
Ophrys apifera: bumble face,
bee velvet, swells
under a pink headdress,
a primrose hood.
Cut-out girls, cute
in maroon and white nighties
around a fleshy spike.
A troop of Orchis simia:
gaunt, freckled aliens,
oval-eyed, they leap in the air
with hanging penises.
A purple penguin priest
blesses us in passing
a lime-leaf crucifix.
gapes. Yawns open
its crimson-warted throat
from which a ribbon tongue
licks out to strike
thin air, and stalks us down
into a torrent bed.
Did I hear it
The Sibillines…known since Medieval times as a land of demons, necromancers and fairies
THRESHOLD OR INTERMEDIATE
Naming is next to knowing, so we start
with winds: to know the Tramontana’s
Albanian music in the crown
of orniello, flowering ash; run from
the black Bora, rain from Slovenia
falling from its belly. It’s a kind of game,
to be field savvy, to greet the snakes,
vipere in their hiding places, coiled
against leafy crooks of vines,
bleached grass along the ditches
where frustone slides its dry green scales.
With your arms around the sottopancia,
can you tell an olive tree’s longevità?
Who is Mauro’s second cousin?
What was the peccato that bound Marta
to the ancient twins in the tower house?
Why would the farmer call his tractor whore
of the Maremma? Shout the parolaccia
that damned each arrow dropped to earth
when our archers hung their heads in defeat.
It’s only us stranieri who strain to know.
If you’re born here, you could never forget.
WHERE THE RING ROAD FALTERS
Instead of a new carriageway
enfolds the village, hangs in swags,
between last year’s girders.
Now the warning net is amber,
lattice half-submerged; briars
have throttled diamonds,
beaten and bent the plastic
to a wall of wood-green blinks.
Nettles thrive, shake out
their knotty blossom-whips;
bindweed takes the line of posts
as an invitation, tightens, chews
and regurgitates mesh, extrudes
pink, a vertical horn section
whose music is improvised scat,
a protest strangled, root
to throat. It shrieks beyond
the bounds of our hearing
There’s a new frond on my desk fern
this morning; half-uncurled
segments the shape of little flames
reaching for the window.
This is the boundary of our days,
the fern and me, this room, its view
of sycamores and terrace backs. I send
an email. Wonder, when I breathe out,
does my fern breathe in?
In Italy, in Pianello olive grove,
Ugo might be halfway up a ladder,
wielding his saw-toothed knife,
a dusty cellphone in the pocket
of his waistcoat, singing
while he prunes.
Between the olive trees, orchids
might be swaying above
rosettes of blotchy leaves.
Ugo might have paused
for a breather, to wriggle his stiff
tree-root fingers, flexing his knees,
achey these days when he stands
too long on the scalandrino, or to call
Graziella, ask what’s for lunch.
I hold my breath, watch the fern
from the corner of my eye.
Stretch out further, further, roll out
right to the tip. Filter the light
all the way from emerald to olive.