Annie Rachele Lanzillotto

Annie Rachele Lanzillotto

Annie Rachele Lanzillotto’s books include: “Hard Candy: Caregiving, Mourning and Stagelight,” and “Pitch, Roll, Yaw” (Guernica World Editions), “L is for Lion: an italian bronx butch freedom memoir” (SUNY Press), (Lambda Literary Award finalist,) and “Schistsong,” (Bordighera Press). Annie earned the moniker, one of “200 essential New Yorkers” (NY Times), for her performance installation at The Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in City Lore’s New York City Neighborhood Tent. Annie podcasts as “Annie’s Story Cave.”

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Our schedules, Italians are very consistent
and systematic about. A sistemazione, an order
to the way you do things. Everything. There’s no deviation.
It’s still an agrarian survivalist clock.
A rigid sense of time and how to organize your day.
This l’orario makes it easy to make plans with friends.
You never need to ask what time.
If you’re having lunch, you know what time,
If you’re having dinner you know what time,
A walk in the piazza you know what time.
There’s no leeway.
You get up—everybody—you get up
before the sun, before the heat
Let’s say 07:00. You down a cappuccino and a dolce
If you’re lucky a cornetta di crema
That’s the prima colazione, the first breakfast.
There’s something about a mouthful of warm cream
when you’re just waking up. It makes you go to bed happy.
You wanna go to sleep to wake up the next morning
cause you know as soon as you wake up you go downstairs,
“Buon Giorno Signora!”
The cornetta, the hot cream, fresh overflowing
comes right toward you. All you gotta do
is open your mouth… This is why Italy’s
got the lowest suicide rates.
It’s because of these cornetta di crema!
You want to live to the next morning!
It’s a miracle. A lactating goddess.
You can’t even believe how you feel
when it comes in your mouth first
thing in the morning. It is breastfeeding.

So you’re up by 07:00 you have the mouth full of cream
08:00 you’re on your way to the market, or work,
or wherever you gotta go, shopping, whatever you gotta do.
Then the colazione you grab if you can
a pannino, something to hold you over
’cause 13:00, you gotta eat again!
Yes, Italians are on military time. No. This is serious.
If you’re eating out, if you’re grabbin a bite
if you’re early like 12:30, the food is not out yet.
if you’re late like 13:30, it’s all gone
there’s maybe nothing left, a crust apizz’, that’s it.
You gotta be on time, exact, a punto,
and if you are, it’s glorioso magnifico perfetto
stupendo meravigliosa Che Buona!
Mammamia! Madonnn! Una giornata stupefacente!

You never ate like this in all your life.
By 14:30 everyone is asleep for the pisolino, the afternoon nap.
16:00, you have a caffé, an espresso, go back to work,
or whatever you gotta do.
The whole country lifts a coffee the same moment.

The only flexible time of the day is the aperitivo:
a Spritz and olives, focaccia, nuts, whatever whets your appetite.
Something salty to pump your electrolytes back up
so you can function throughout the night.
The aperitivo can be anywhere from 17:30-19:00
and lasts ’til 19:47 or so.
It’s in the piazza, or a bar by the sea, they will serve you,
a glorious glass filled with orange sparkling wonder
on a silver platter to wherever you are sitting.
The spritz matches the sunset.
That’s the point of the whole thing.
The melting of the light.
So you don’t sundown.
You drink the sunset.
So you don’t sundown.
You take the transition of the light inside you, so it cheers you
You lift the inevitable dying of the light
in a wide, shapely big bottom glass
that rests in the palm of your hand
and you can handle it,
take your portion of it,
so you don’t sundown.
The spritz takes a while to drink. It’s not fast.
Savor the light. The glow.
The dip below the horizon.
The spritz lasts as long as a sunset.
Like the sunset, it’s only meant to be taken in, one at a time.
It’s all about the color,
drink the light, take in the brightness
The sunset you sip.
Take it inside you.
All those colors between the colors
you can’t name. Let’s call it orange.

You can still sense the loneliness, the abyss
that is always just an arm’s reach away.
The pit of the heart. The emptiness.
You lift your Spritz like a warrior to the sunset and it’s all okay.
It is a good day to die. And a day to live.
Like a hug from an old lover, who assures you:
“Yes we did okay didn’t we?
You weren’t such an asshole as you’ve imagined.
You can put down that weight you’ve been carrying around.
Put it down. Now.”

20:00 you eat.
21:00 you take a walk.
Na’ passeggiatta nella piazza.
You talk to people. Arm in arm, you walk.
The next day you do it all over again.
And all night long
you hear conversazione
in through the window of your balcone
from the caffé down the alleyway,
ricocheting off the clothesline
slipping through the slats of your shutters
into your bedroom
as you close your eyes
for dream time.

Poetry in this post: © Annie Rachele Lanzillotto
Published with the permission of Annie Rachele Lanzillotto