blackbirdonline journalSpring 2009  Vol. 8  No. 1
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La Bufera: Our Last Trip to Sicily
     I have seen, in the stained-glass windows
     through the flowers of the mullioned panes,
     a country of skeletons
     filter in—and a lip
     of blood grow muter, speechless.

          Surely, no one could fall out of love here,
where the dhoni drop off from the pier like drowsy relay runners
                    and the air is smeared with orange blossoms,
                              their strong, nuptial smell, instinctive
          as a first language. And though I tried that night
that we sat at the wobbly table in the restaurant where old
                    arguments began to interest us again,
                              I could not pronounce the word for napkin:
          tovagliolo. And though the waitress smiled with her
mouth, I could tell she was annoyed by the treason of my name,
                    Candito, which means sweet candy shell
                              and is, like so many things, an accident
          of translation—my grandfather trading Candido,
pure white light, for a child’s Easter treat, the pastel shell that shrouds
                    an almond. My grandfather, who often said,
                              Pisciaci supra i ruini prima ca diventinu muschei;
          Piss on the ruins before they build another temple,
would have laughed even when waves pelted the olive grove that night
                    and the lights quivered as if an uncertain
                              country of skeletons were slipping in—
          the marzipan birds like empty hands, the spongy
skin of the priests in the square. He would have laughed when we
                    returned to the baglio, emboldened and drunk,
                              to fuck on the ancient floor and pass out
          with spumante fizzing over the sides of our glasses
and the windows flung open without wondering how bright, how
                    final the Strait of Messina must have looked
                              that morning in 1938 when he left for good.


          In the morning, I woke mouthing the syllables,
to-vag-li . . . trying to make them work, when I heard you from
                    the other end of a tunnel: Take a hot shower.
                              You’ll feel better. Then, falling through
          the shower door with nothing to break the fall
but my skull and a soaked towel. You said it felt like film noir,
                    finding me naked on my side with one eye
                              clenched as if in vigorous prayer
          and the other, wilder eye fluttering, the lashes beating
around the still center of the dilated world. What a loud noise, I thought,
                    collapsing into that damp, black sphere
                              in my brain, like the well in Orvieto,
          the one you wouldn’t follow me into, collapsing into
that dream I keep having—a man standing on a chair, a noose, a loose
                    locket hanging from his neck. He wants me to kick
                              the chair out from under his feet. At first I refuse,
          but he’s grabbing my arm. I kick hard. I want to make him sorry.
One of those moments that caves in under examination—your
                    careful, clinical hands prodding my ribs
                              for injuries. Bruises welling up, like the flush
          of sex, or the sudden flare of what goes unsaid.
I know my mouth was filled with blood and that when I tried
                    to speak you moaned as if you could feel it too,
                              the tooth pierced through my bottom lip.
          And pain became the vantage point, the spot where I
still stand watching the morning grow wilder, already half in love
                    with the ruined picture and the body’s offer
                              to pay for everything—a mute, bloody
          mouth, a snapped neck, as if damage were its own
currency, as if regret were ever the right reason to return.  end

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