“Opera Buffa” by Diane Shipley DeCillis

Diane Shipley DeCillis


At La Dolce Vita, in the village,
the gnocchi lifts itself off the fork,
floats like a cloud in your mouth,
the marinara so fresh,
it ripens the tomatoes, garlic
and basil right on your tongue.

Clemenza’s in the kitchen
stirring the sauce,
telling everyone he really doesn’t eat
that much, it’s the fumes
that have permeated his body,
gotten under his skin
and made him fat.

My date Antonio closes his eyes
after each bite, groans,
Marona, this is as good
as my mother’s.

Satisfied, he lays his folded napkin
on the empty plate and slumps
in the chair while I,
having saved room,
crane my neck looking for the waiter.
What, you want dessert too?
He seems surprised.

I’d like to see what they have,
though I’ve committed it
to memory.
Aren’t you full? he asks.
Am I full? I think to myself.
It’s bad enough that we have to die,
that I’m not taller, that my metabolism
is molto lento, but to dine with someone
who is indifferent

to a chilled plate
of Panna Cotta,
silky, quivering cream
adorned with fresh berries,
or Torta Strega, cake
perfumed with liqueur,
filled with pastry cream
and finished
with hazelnut meringue.

I cannot live on lasagna alone
and the fact that Antonio
doesn’t sense this threatens
our chance for a future.

The waiter smiles as he unravels
the dessert menu, handwritten
on rough brown craft paper.
Umbrian Apple Tart
Selville Orange Sorbetto …
This is so beautiful
, I say,
ordering the Panna Cotta.
May I keep the menu?
Of course Signora
, he says.
And you sir?

No. Nothing for me,
just a cup of espresso

Oh Antonio, Antonio what
are you thinking?
How can I trust a man
who doesn’t like sweets?
At La Dolce Vita
what could have been the start
of a beautiful romance—
snapped like a broken string
on a Stradivarius!

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets

Rattle Logo