Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in such journals as Acumen, Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, Feile Festa, Journal of Italian Translation, Gradiva, VIA, and ParisLitUp. Her seventh and most recent book of poetry is EDGES.
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: purple flag (14 Dec. 2016)
San Donato di Ninea, Italy
A window dressed in mystery:
curtains allow only a glimpse
of rooftops, the drift of rain,
the promise of sea. Where they part,
a sliver of balcony cuts the hills.
For ten days, we live intimately
with strangers, lost cousins.
The old house smells of wax
and wood and family.
Standing at the sill, we listen
to found music, the blood singing
in the moment when the air is hungry.
Chimneys lean into each other.
Below us, a small white cat
crouches on a doorstep between
two flowerpots, her fur
wet with rain, her head
a little ball of fallen sky.
The invisible sea, with its
warm waves, stones and shells,
its white-rimmed restlessness,
its life of grasping and letting go,
asks nothing less of us
Was it just last week
we bid goodbye —
your headless pyramid
ovalled in an airplane window
meeting my gaze?
A few days ago, your black triangle
backed against the sky above Sorrento,
beyond the lemon trees.
I caught the corner of your distant
silence amid the roar and throb
of motorbikes in Napoli.
Bright scarves and trinkets
thread you into the needle
of my vision, your sleeping weight
the lava of centuries
poured into cathedral bells
and a blue bay.
You remember Pompeii,
hold her ashes in your belly.
The world watches your untouchable
solidity, awaits the gentle stirrings
of your loins. We play hide and seek
with tragedy, dread the day
you’ll wake and stretch to spew
annihilation once again.
Carnival of Venice
St. Mark’s Square 2020
Useless to hide one ’s terror
behind a mask, even the kind
whose black wings fly off
into the periphery with opulent plumes.
Carnevale has been cancelled
by a pandemic whose origins
remain hidden in the ruffles
of a taffeta costume, a jester’s bells,
the rhinestone sleeves
of Columbina holding fresh flowers
and fear. The sad strings of lights,
the crowds of pre-Lenten party-goers
are rendered superfluous, useless
in the face of a virus secretly planning
pandemonium from its unknown nest
under cobbled streets, or airborne
on the wings of a gull circling
a Chinese boat in the harbor.
Simply one germ—that’s all it takes—
threads itself into the center of a sequin
on a Harlequin’s hat. The masks
of this new feast are blue-side out,
papery in texture, anti-viral pleats
over nose and mouth, keeping the panic in.
At the local markets, supplies
of bottled water and tinned fish are gone.
The lamplit piazza is shrouded in fog,
abandoned by all sensible people,
some of whom will be dead
the next time the moon rises
over the basilica. But tonight
they will hug their children
for just a moment longer.
All over Italy,
people are sleeping in tents
or in cars with their children,
pets, cell phones.
Church belfries lie on their sides
in the smoking rubble.
One thousand aftershocks
in three days finished the job.
Villages have disappeared.
The walls of bedrooms
have dropped away, leaving
a theater set of beds, toys,
a myriad of wires.
It’s not safe to retrieve
a laptop, a lost slipper.
Blankets and water arrive
from the outside world.
At the first rumble,
the ground huffed and blustered
for nine seconds. Then,
the silence, the darkness
before the sirens.
Life in Florence
My cousin in Florence
turns out to be a doctor.
His wisp of a wife from Iran
Their large brown Bernese,
Toffee, lies docile at my feet
under the kitchen table,
at their country house in Empoli.
Named for Tom-and-Jerry cartoons,
Jerry the cat reclines on the bookcase,
catching invisible dust motes,
waving, as we often do, at nothing.
Two turtles are fenced in the garden,
“Beh” and “Boh” (in Italian, a shrug
of the shoulders), quietly accept a life
going in circles, hemmed in under the wide sky,
Filippo looks after them all,
talks to them in the doctorly voice
he must use with his patients
who have a fifty-fifty chance of survival.
Nazila cuts rosemary from the Tuscan pots
at the back door. She’ll add the crumbled herbs
to a casserole of lamb and artichokes
bubbling in the oven for lunch.
Recanati, Le Marche, Italy
Children study his poems
alongside those of Dante.
Barely a man when he died
at thirty-nine, imprisoned
by his father in a houseful of books,
he studied Latin, Greek, the Hebrew
scriptures, a plethora of dusty tomes
still sleeping on the shelves,
a burial of sorts.
One day he glanced up
from the desk at the window,
across the small piazza, to watch
Teresa, sewing. But far too soon
tuberculosis swept her into the hills,
coughing up blood with the sea spray.
He spent a stunted future
staring across the cobblestones,
writing of her, his “Silvia,”
betrayed by the false promises
Poetry in this post: © Donna Pucciani
Published with the permission of Donna Pucciani