V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




                       (Marietta, Ohio, 1895)

Since you died, you've been singing to me, 
in a voice I don't know, deep as a river's. 

Last night it was Luigi's song—the tune 
works in my mind until it's all I can hear. 
Remember Luigi?  my brothers were home 
from college, and brought you to meet me, 

took us both to the ladies' night dinner 
at the Club on Front Street—spaghetti 
and those long Italian loaves of bread. 
Rivermen were chanting in the saloon 
down the street, but you refused to let me 
anywhere near.  "Not for a lady," you said. 

First Norman went to listen, then Malcolm, 
but you stayed with me.  Luigi the cook 
serenaded us with love songs—remember 
his chef's puffed hat and round black eyes? 
He brought a sweet red wine to sip that his father 
had grown.  He told us, Signor, Signorina, 
go Sorrento, showed us pictures, white houses 
perched on a cliff, a tall church. 

Bluer than sapphire the water there, so clear 
a boat can drift above drowned Roman ruins. 
Jewels gleam in sand a hundred feet below. 
If you could dive that deep, he said, you'd be rich.
He taught us a song, Sorrento, Sorrento, 
villa amorosa, then disappeared and we two 

leaned over the wine, inventing 
our own Italy, foreign foods more strange 
than that stringy cheese, carriage-rides 
on cobblestone streets, serenades by the sea. 

Time's a cheat like our river, rolling out 
the promises, keeping secrets buried. 
We'll never see Sorrento now.  Time 
swells out of its banks, thins to a dribble. 
We let it fool us to loll in boats, beguile us 
with lilies.  Then it roughs us up with a flood, 
eats our houses.  Whatever we try, 
it pushes us on, sweeps us downstream.

© by Ann Silsbee


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