March 14, 2020

Robert Viscusi


In English we say Padua; in Italian, Padova.
In Italian, Basilica di Sant’Antonio; in English, Church of Saint Anthony.
Around the tomb of Saint Anthony in Padua stands an altar.
Around that altar people have left pictures of their parts.
“Saint Anthony healed my arm, and here is a silver arm.”
Hammered silver arms hang at all angles, thousands of them.
The cloister museum has hundreds of feet, eyeballs, knees.
Sant’Antonio di Padova, finder of lost things, also heals the sick.
Padova is the seat of an ancient school of medicine.
Many paintings record accidents miraculously survived.
Ex voto. Because of a vow. Each piece records a vow.
“In gratitude for healing my heart, I send this picture.”
Some paintings are of children restored to happiness.
There is a plaster cast of two hands.
People send their wedding rings.
Nothing is too small for Saint Anthony.
He will help you find your glasses, if they are what you need.
The picture is at the end of a corridor.
The man is painted looking straight ahead at the viewer.
Above him the heart, whole and aglow.
These rooms have skylights.
A row of silver hearts frames the painting.
In late afternoon silver is golden.
With his left hand, the man is pointing to the old heart.
It lies broken into huge humps of stone.
Artists call this gesture The Confession.
With his right hand the man points to the new heart.
Its red gold aureole distills the afternoon light.
Artists call this gesture The Vow.
Many of the paintings have Saint Anthony in them.
Others seem to be looking at him as if he were standing inside you.
“Thank you for healing me,” they say. “Thank you for finding my glasses.”

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets


Robert Viscusi: “Visiting Italy for the first time in 1977, I found myself not merely an American with a passport but also an Italian with amnesia. Thoughts and feelings that had long accompanied my American life now seemed subtle messages from another place, now nameless, written in another tongue, now silent. This rich forgetfulness, these unsettling interruptions, became my subject.”

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September 20, 2014

Pasquale Verdicchio


for Antonio Porta

We felt it
the sisma
poetic temblor
that radiated from the capital
of capitals of church and state
and wrapped the body of
that man lost among angels
for what did he know of lanes
and what did he think of percourses
only that it was a freeway
like no other and it led
from one end of a dream
to the other of a nightmare
it was his notebook
to carry across the notions
the smuggled thoughts about it
america this america that america
but an america that was only
what we wanted to find
and so from fast food
to slow drivers it opened the door
to nothing more than a view
our own window and we drank
and ate with them
those who had not come
but were just there
unlike us who had flown driven
hundreds thousands of miles
across continents and countries
rivers and oceans
states and cities and county lines
because that is part of it
the county line crossing it
not knowing on the other side
the welcome the distance between
and so we continued to the cities
all names but initials
hell, hey! as they say and frisco
which they don’t say
on a cold day is not California
but it still holds the foreigner
in the gold of that orange bridge
the size beyond the bridge of the county
and Marin becomes something altogether
different but it is the place of the dream
and it must be noted
recorded and seen
a photograph does not quite capture it
and so all of it is done and then reported
back by phone across thousands of miles
in late night calls that defy deny and construct
and that’s the book
that’s the poem
and that’s what we remember
for it is not a travel diary
it is a travel life
a nomadism put on paper
a nomadism with stakes
to keep it from walking off
out of one’s memory
out of one’s reach
and back into the place from where
it did not come

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets

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September 13, 2014

Laura Stortoni-Hager


After the summer storm
the South wind carried from Africa
the fragrance of a thousand jasmines. In the streets
small pools of water glittered in the sunlight
like jewels in a copper setting. And there I saw
the reflections
of the golden cities of Revelations—
walls inlaid with precious stones ablaze:
ruby and jasper, topaz and agate,
emerald and amethyst.

Sometimes after the storm
there was no moon. The night fell swiftly
on the wide plain. Peacocks cried in the
distant fields, sensing
the loneliness of approaching dusk.

I know that I am still tied to that land
by something stronger than blood—
that land where truth is a dangerous thing.
I shall always be
two people fighting within one skin:
one, the sun worshipper,
the other muted, devoted to the moon,
in the palace of the wind.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets

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September 6, 2014

Felix Stefanile


Joy shivers in the corner where she sits,
And Conscience always has the rocking-chair.
—from “New England” by Edwin Arlington Robinson

I call him Ponder Man, sad and bemused,
not only by what happens, but by what
may happen to us next, likely as not
the Aftermath that cannot be refused.
For Robinson the past stays unexcused:
there’s always Eben Flood who drinks a lot,
the Richard Cory Richard Cory shot,
and sweet Aunt Imogen, whom Love misused.

He once composed a chilling villanelle
about an abandoned house set on a hill,
whose stolid silence on that weed-choked crest
dispelled all thought of either host or guest,
except for Aftermath, who ponders there,
in the buckled parlor, in the broken rocking-chair.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets

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March 30, 2014

Vittoria Repetto


my father and i are alone together
with marilyn dead
who will calm us down
after a fight
one by one on the phone
who will tell me
he cried
when he read the poem i sent him
with marilyn gone
no one to cook for
he brings me minestrone and
swiss chard pie
he dreamt i was hungry
my father and i are together
and alone with each other.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
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January 4, 2014

Jerry Mazza


Reports the New York Times,
Israeli and Palestinian
children stake out positions
along main roads and rooftops,
wait for the unsuspecting
and cut loose with snowballs.
And in the silence of fallen
whiteness, laughter echoes,
not gunfire, and schools
are closed, and peace is tasted
like the fat flakes, heavenly
host of the sky, by men
in black who pray at the wall
and others the Dome of the Rock.
One foot of slushy snow
dampens the check point guards,
the would-be marauders, bombers,
snipers and anti-snipers,
quenching a thirst for peace
deep as the desert’s for water.
Oh weathering miracle,
would that a blizzard followed,
forty days and nights
of snow’s flood, not blood, to lift
the animals, men, women
and children in holy two’s
to some Goshen of the spirit,
where all were one, oh naive
singer, and not cloven
like the devil’s hooves,
but dancing in a circle of white
like snowmen with Semite noses,
turning in a gyre
towards a history beyond
the simmering landscape’s pyre.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
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November 29, 2013

Joseph Ranallo


D. H. Lawrence has said
All that one needs to say about them.

They are sensual, tantalizing, and female.
Their taste, always exquisite, intoxicating.

Their granulated flesh, warm and moist,
Holds the essence of forgetfulness.

The Florentines give their names to the vagina,
The portal to the poetry of bliss.

The figs Lawrence wrote about
Were ripened by the hot
Snake-infested Sicilian sun.

Last summer
I tasted figs
Homegrown in Burnaby:
Green, golden, and purple figs
Each succulent, luscious, opiate.

Their mystery and sensuality
Beckon us like sirens:
Full-bodied, wistful
Southern Italian women

Who nurture, tend and feed them.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets

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