Whole Fennel/Finocchio Intero

This poem, from Certain as Afternoon, is a the story of a day.   I talk to myself in this poem, explaining to myself what happens on the day Pio is in the hospital for tests, and he calls me to tell me the bad news I have already intuited. Why must I tell myself about it? Because you have to explain things to yourself over and over as you try to understand, open, make room for everything.

In Certain as Afternoon, the voice in the poems moves around.  It switches between pages from first person to second and to third.  The voice speaks to me.  It speaks to you.  It speaks to the one who is dying.  Sometimes the voice speaks to the poem.  Sometimes the voice becomes the poem.  It sounds complicated, but really it isn’t.

First in English, dopo in Italiano.

 

Whole Fennel

when he calls you
on the phone
from the Policlinico to
tell you he is
dying, you say
alright
and
i’ll be there soon

then you go to the
park and walk,
order the trees
not to let you
cry. you don’t want
him to see you with
red eyes and
puffy lids

you stop at the
mercato for his favorites
prosciutto crudo and
whole fennel

it isn’t going to be today,
anyway

at the hospital you will
sit together at a
table in the sun
eat sandwiches

share fennel and
both wonder
if it is true

 

Finocchio Intero

quando lui ti chiama
al telefono
dal Policlinico per
dirti che sta
morendo, tu dici
va bene
e
arrivo subito

poi vai al
parco e cammini,
preghi agli alberi
di non farti
piangere. non vuoi che
lui ti veda con gli
occhi rossi e
gonfi

ti fermi al mercato a prendere
i suoi spuntini preferiti
prosciutto crudo e
finocchio intero

comunque
non sarà oggi

all’ospedale vi
siederete insieme ad un
tavolo al sole
mangerete dei panini

condividirete il finocchio e
vi chiederete
tutti e due
se è vero

Certain as Afternoon / Certa Come Il Pomeriggio

I have a new book for you.  Look for it in September.  It’s my bravest book so far—about bravery and love.  The title is Certain as Afternoon / Certa Come Il Pomeriggio.

This is a duel-language book of poems in English and Italian that tell the story of death and love.  It’s not weepy and whiny, there are no flowers in it, and no rainbows.  There are doctors in it, ice cream, clocks that tick, and lots of sky.  There is rain, and there are ashes.  No one ever flinches.

Why would I write such a book?

To save my life.  To keep from going mad.  To bear witness.  To paint portraits and landscapes of things that cannot be photographed.   Because I don’t have a therapist.  Because someday you will lose someone you love–that it will come is as certain as afternoon—and this book of poems will hold your hand, then.  It will lie with you on your bed and it will sit with you at the table under the ticking clock. It will not try to make you feel better at the time when you’re supposed to feel bad.  You cannot possibly frighten or offend it by what you say, or by never speaking.  What can provide that type of company but a book of poems?

Of course, the original language of almost all the poems is English.  I do not consider myself competent to translate poetry into Italian, but it became present to my mind in the last half year that this book wants to be in Italian as well as English.  So many people who loved Pio will not be able to read it if I don’t do the work.  So, I conscripted the help of loving and patient friends who dug through the depths of this with me and went all the places nobody wants to go.  They have called the task an honor, but truly the honor is mine.  My language skills have grown, but not as much as my friendships.

I’ve prepared Certain as Afternoon using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service.  The publishing platform is free for me; the book will have a small cost.  My finger is poised above the “publish” button at which point there’s no going back.  This time, I’m not interested in years of trying to sell myself to publishers before I can give this book to the people I’ve intended it for, and make it available to anyone who may discover, want, or need it.

I’m fiercely proud of this project.  I can’t wait to share it with you.  Buckle up.


Possible cover if I like how it looks when I get the proof copy

Pearls

i have thrown my
pearls to the pigs
you see
how they shimmer
gorgeously
in the snouts of slime?

i am not sad
or only a little

the oysters
i possess
are growing something
glorious

The Chaos Theory

Between

Trying to find words, I can get lost between languages, between worlds, between lives. There are too many words for somethings and not enough for others.

There are colors. There is the press and the temperature of all types of air. There are the sounds of clouds approaching. There are the shapes of leaves and the shadows they make. All of that adds up to a lot more than nothing.

 

Love

I could write about love, but you wouldn’t understand. I don’t mean you wouldn’t understand love, I would mean you wouldn’t understand me. You would think I’m in love and you would get lost wondering about the details. Whatever. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something else, entirely. Something like sunlight. Green things make sugar out of it, and they live.

 

Things You Don’t Know

What do you call the time between the moment a thing becomes true and the moment you realize it’s true? When the thing is already true, but you do not know it, and you go on acting and living as if it weren’t? It can be moments, or it can be years. Then when you come to know/understand the thing, you experience it as new even though it has already been there beside you in silence.

Irony: we can see the smallest ant walking across the table, the smallest leaf falling in complete silence, but we cannot perceive the enormity of love or death approaching until it takes us by surprise. It’s like a storm—a hurricane—forming and closing in, but we cannot see it. It comes closer and closer, changing everything in its path, and we have no idea until the rain begins to fall. No radar. No visible clouds. We may feel the change in air pressure and wonder what is going on, if it is our imagination.

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

 

Before

Sometimes I think about the day before. Or the hour. Or the minute. Before anything. Anything important–whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. The point is, do you remember the day before? When everything was about to be different and you didn’t know? You were so innocent. The day before you got the job offer. The day before you got the diagnosis. The day before you took the pregnancy test. The day before the accident. The day before you won the prize. The hour before you met her/him. The minute before you got the phone call. The second before it happened. It was the end of something and the beginning of something else and you did not know.

I think about this. Is this the last minute of something? It could be. This one right now. The point isn’t whether I will like things more or less after whatever is coming. The point is, is this the last taste of this flavor?  It could be.  Always, at any given moment.

 

The Cherry Orchard

Anton Checkov captured it in The Cherry Orchard. Not in words, of course–theatre can do that. Do you know the play? The sound of the string breaking that comes in Act 2 while all the characters sit in a silence that makes audiences squirm?  That’s what it is. It’s the sound of nothing ever being the same afterward. A melancholy sound from somewhere far off. A breaking sound.

God, I love Checkhov.

They all sit thoughtfully. It is quiet. Only the mumbling of FIERS is heard. Suddenly a distant sound is heard as if from the sky, the sound of a breaking string, which dies away sadly.

That’s it.

Something happens in the distance.  The time it takes for the sound to travel through air divides the thing that has happened from the moment they know it is true.

 

The Butterfly Effect

Everything is connected.

I just finished reading The Ice Queen, a novel that references the chaos theory, the butterfly effect. A thespian like me cringes at a thing called “the chaos theory,” so scientific-sounding, and unaccessible. But it’s at the interface between science and poetry. Things affect other things. Yes. The butterfly that flaps her wings far away perhaps moves the final milliliter of air that causes the first water droplet to form that becomes the hurricane that destroys the coast. Exactly. Things that are true and we never know. Small things that rule the world. Things that are caused by other things that are caused by butterflies.

 

The Gesture That Saves My Life

Perhaps when you lift your hand to wave at me, a hurricane begins.  Perhaps it will be the gesture that saves my life. You won’t know. Neither will I.

Second

succumb for a second

hook my head
in your arm and
crush it against
your heart.
it’s 3 AM and
we are here

trying

to hold it together
to keep a safe distance
to make it to morning
in this life

Talking About Silence

It’s ironic, I know–talking about silence. You destroy it the minute you begin. The only thing you can do is describe the negative space around it. Lo spazio vuoto. Everything you don’t say is the thing you mean.

It takes practice. Silence, I mean.

Silence isn’t something most people love, crave, or become terribly crabby without. Enter: me.

You know the story: silence came to me by accident. I didn’t want it. For 14 years, the tv was on, then suddenly it wasn’t. The ticking clocks were deafening, at first. That’s a lot of punctuation. Are they comas, the ticks, or periods? Maybe they are question marks.

It grows on you.

Sometimes, if you dive down deep enough under water that your belly touches the sand, you can hear whales. Really. Who knew? It’s all this silence and then when you’re down far enough to have to pop your ears, there it is: the language with no words.

I love music. I love lights and noise and having 2 or 12 people over for dinner. I love talking and laughing and telling stories. I love saying the funny thing you didn’t expect. I love telling you a story you can barely believe. Silence waits outside the screen for everyone to go home. It waits with the cats who don’t like a lot of commotion either, and slides back in with them during the night.

You can cultivate silence like a plant. Like a garden. You can plant it and reforest the devastation. You can water it in the evening and check each morning to see if it has new leaves. You can wait for its flowers. You can sit in its shade and watch the butterflies. You can find so much richness in its presence that the pain of it thickens into love. Believe me.

Sometimes I am the one who talks too much, who shouldn’t have started in on that story in the first place. Or who throws out a comment that seems like it’s going to be clever until it hits the air. But not always.

Sometimes I am the one who can’t think of one thing to say. I believe in comfortable silence. We don’t have to talk all the time any more than we have to eat all the time. Why? Can we ever just leave our mouths at rest the way we prop up our feet? I think so. Sometimes there is nothing in me that wants out. Everything is ok where it is. Or I am waiting to know what I mean before I start talking.

Surfing is silent. It can be, anyway. That’s the way I like it. I’m not a chatty surfer. If you can get 4 sentences out of me before I paddle away, you should feel special. It’s easier to pay attention when you’re not using your mouth. That’s about a lot more than surfing.

It’s like your soul condenses in silence. It becomes thicker and contains more of the essential ingredient–the thing it is. More of a bisque and less of a broth.

Turn off the noise and listen to the wind. Or the clock. Or the birds. Don’t speak. Nothing going in. Nothing going out. Stasis.

“What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your full love.” Thank you, Rilke. Silence become anything but boring.

Poems About Waiting

poems about waiting
hover in the corner
by the ceiling
like angels

they don’t mind because
same as angels
waiting is
what they do

they can wait forever
or until tomorrow
they can wait
for anything
or nothing at all
and they won’t wish
you would hurry or
turn on the tv

while you sleep
they are waiting
outside the mosquito net
nearby
with the cats

poems about waiting
might not have words
because speaking
is not what they do

their language is
made up of comas
and spaces