Tosca has hysterics while
ghostly heads listen without a cough.
Meanwhile in the pit other tunes are being played.
A bow fingers the pages, and to a laddish smirk
plops a duster on a partner’s tuning scroll.
That grace note gets an f— o– mute.
The fiddles fidget: not on yet they’ve pause
to contemplate the maestro’s tossing curls.
But the air’s precipitoso, the trombone and
the tuba meditate on totting up their score.
Tosca’s long from her full orchestral leap
and Cavaradossi’s doing his pathetics.
There’s no time here for ‘dolci mani mansuete.’
The overtime’s unpaid, the union’s red hot
on liberties and, come to think of it, Scarpia’s
no more a mouldy bastard than the admin. here.
No quaver-ing, a minim-al rate, ties off,
there’s a rose-red dawn with trills and trumpets too
if the mordents turn and the appoggiaturas tick off
the workers’ just demands. It’s time. The rumbles on.
The snare-drum’s ready. The draft’s back in the
briefcase, and the Old Man’s baton’s whipping more
than usual. Musicians of the world unite! That dying fall
up there means all the action’s on the stage – tonight!
PIETRO ‘IL PADANO’, MAN OF THE PO VALLEY
(An exhibition of his paintings
Castello di San Terenzo, Lerici, Italy)
I’d swear the castle wobbled over me.
Or was it just the sun clouting me above?
It was mightily prickling down in the bay.
Sun-drunk then – not a drop today –
and the sibilations of the guardian lady’s
acidulous pleasantries hath no charms.
Pietro, man of the Po, not po-faced, no,
but cool from countless careless words.
Here were Austrian, Northern scenes,
wild horses placed in milky meadows.
And for zartbitter a scene where hands
apocalyptic rain down cars and fridges
on the tissue-silk of a Swiss valley.
I yes-ed and no-ed and listened,
the epileptic’s tale of factory and foe,
the rich wife, and the never-gathered
reason for his feisty presence here
in San Terenzo, bathed in the prickly
spray of Azure Venus, his home the
sucking, drifting fogs of Lombardy.
I jigged about the rooms, and punished
him with queries. “Yes, ah, yes it
was a challenge that, the leaves …” Good
yet not significant I say, but not to him.
Walked and talked, we parted and his
“Boh, non si capisce” spoke to cold shadows.
‘Painter and Engraver’ – like a ragged shout:
he was, we’ll say, just that. No doubt.
It could be Chinese, but maybe
the yellow’s illusive, the ‘From 1913’
hints at earlier fare. The fixed menu
touched in shaky blue. I’m led inside
and guided by a single lady ghost to a
single table in, I’m shocked to say,
a rat-a-tat of single tables, leading to the
founders, ma and pa Giacin, she a
knitted tea cosy, he a masticating mouth,
chewing the long silence. My oyster sauce
sails in on the slimmest boat, the
spaghetti ties itself in sniggering knots.
I’m lined up for the second course.
The saviour’s just arrived, the regular
Professor, who urges off his overcoat,
lets the scarf limp on the peg, eats pastina
and for seconds a chip of cheese, a tomato,
a red marble on his ascetic plate.
That block of yellow wax, his head,
rat-teeth mincing so, the beaujolais
shivers in its glass. Mine hostess piped
the still air. She was afraid the rain
still rained, the half-closed brollies
meaning something. Quite so, indeed,
I was afraid I couldn’t stay for sweet,
I was afraid, single table, number eight.
PETER DE VILLE, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellow in Creative Writing and recently awarded a Hawthornden Foundation Fellowship, has worked in Italy as a university lecturer. He writes stories, poetry, articles, plays and novels and translates and reviews. He has two poetry collections Open Eye and Taking the pH with Tuba Press http://www.tubapress.eu/page-two.php and 25 poems Ciao Marco Martial, inspired by reading the Latin poet, are published by Shoestring Press (www.shoestring-press.com) in Take 5 – 07.