Poetry and Poetics
SLIPS UP AT RISTORANTE MONTE
He has no cause to call me on the carpet.
Knows how well I play Italian—master
of gesture, of syllable staccato. La mia
. . 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
wineglass sighing Montepulciano.
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
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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