V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




He has no cause to call me on the carpet. 
Knows how well I play Italian—master
of gesture, of syllable staccato.  La mia

credibilità . . . So: long-lost cousin red-
eyed from Perugia, I slide into the chair,
strip the crisp napkin to my lap.  The very air

glorious in garlic, bruschetta d'aglio—
wineglass sighing Montepulciano.  Ah, some
earthly delights. . . . Man and wife, sixty-four sweet

years.  His white head, pinkly thinning.  Fresh-
pressed suit.  Her shapeless sparkling gown, her blue-
veined feet as she takes the chair he holds for her.  

I introduce myself—he marks how my hair curls
down my neck, so like my papa’s.  (But I am
firm.  Five grains shiver at his hourglass’s neck . . . .)

Post antipasti, waiters bend with platters
of lemon-capered veal.  Adesso.  I ting my fork
against a waterglass.  All down the candled

table, children and their Sunday-splendid
children rise, filled hands gleaming.  My hand
on his shoulder, I raise my glass, I offer

the anniversary toast: a questa unione
magnifica.  And slip my thumb behind
his ear.  And press.  That’s all it takes. . . .

They help me lay him on red carpet.  I flip
my cell, confirm my next occasion.  (But
she gazes straight at me.  Desolation.  

Bird in hand, they tell us, but what about the bird
left behind?  A judgment call.  I bend, I touch
her pulse to zero. . . . Her hair, feathered cap—

white-crowned sparrow gripped and slipping
under winter ice.) Two for the price of one,  
I’ll tell Him.  Not one whiff of sentiment.

© by Judith Montgomery



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