Saturday Oct 20

CanditoKara Kara Candito is the author of Taste of Cherry (U of Nebraska P), winner of the 2008 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Her work has or will appear in such journals and anthologies as Blackbird, AGNI, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, Best New Poets 2007, The Rumpus Original Poetry Anthology, and A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. A recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Santa Fe Arts Institute, Candito is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.
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Homeward Bound: Upon Seeing Simon & Garfunkel Live at the Coliseum,
My Last Night in Rome (2004)

 
We’re sweating. The pecorino’s sweating.
The sun is shedding its light across the stage
where a pergola of wires shifts, and Garfunkel,
in his gabardine suit, swears there’ll be no more
dying in the Borghese or in the piazzas airbrushed
with Bellini’s. We’ll undress in the same spot
where gladiators head-butted for the emperor’s
amusement and there’ll be no more diplomacy,
just streaking through the ruins until the buried
bathhouses are born again on the Via Corso
and Love itself swaggers down the Spanish Steps,
like a Keatsian vision.
Sure, last summer, when the temperature rose to 104,
Russian tourists fainted in the Pantheon and vomit
ran down the stones like rainwater or the blood
of traitors. But, look how we’ve survived! Better-
dressed and agile; swaying, saluting a half-moon
as the Ideal descends upon us—a piccolo trumpet,
a baby Aston Martin—amid high-heel prints branded
on mud and the endless streams of cigarettes and magazines—
drenched and drunk and happy.
Tomorrow, young fathers will sleep off the grappa
on trains to Portofino where their kids will swim out
too far while their absurdly beautiful mothers read
fotoromanzi in linen dresses; where the lanky cabana boys
will be smitten, just as I am when a pointy-chinned
Macedonian asks, Che e’ ‘homeward bound’?
But, I can’t explain it. Mercury, god of travel,
shape-shifting and alchemy, I want too much
to conquer you. To read Montale on a balcony
besieged by almond trees, to cry into my macchiato
in an airport lounge, is all one wish; the traveler’s
backward look. Tomorrow, I’ll board a plane
for New York. I’m twenty-three. My skin
and my Italian are as perfect as they’ll ever be.
 

 
Diagnosis

 
Perhaps your neurologist means to mask some Delphic prophecy—
the strength of bulls or lions cannot stop the foe.
O he stands to stroke his ergonomic mustache
and sings about strategy, sings about evidence, flanked by feel-good photographs
of his offspring, their pudgy arms flailing in child-sized sports cars and houses.
Are these the stills of a perverse pharmaceutical commercial?
Where are all the adults? Where is Sparta? Where is
the cerebellum? Into these bruised latitudes we move,
holding hands because it feels like the thing to do. Into the parking garage,
where a sudden downpour reminds us of putrefaction.
Troubles unlooked for long shall vex thy shore—secular rage of the ambulance driver,
a woman schlepped from wheelchair to car with a swaddled, blotchy infant
shrieking in her arms. Birth is the opposite of death,
isn’t it? To find what is lost we press PANIC, we let an alarm summon
the contagion from the titanic hush of asphalt. If denial is a side effect
of desire, then here is the door to a death-car
with airbags and uncertain mileage. Am I a deserter or a passenger?
Helen or Penelope? There’s a hole in your sneaker.
Yes, you answer, I like to feel the weather on my feet.


 
 
New Years Day
Wuhan, China

 
When the beloved poet
whose name no one remembers
threw himself into the Yangtze
the villagers heaped their last
bowls of rice off the dock
so the fish wouldn’t gnaw his flesh.
 
In the temple, I feel
tall, perfectly inchoate, tossing fruit
I can’t name into a fire.
It occurs to me that the best answer
to everyone’s questions is
I’m sorry?
 
When it’s midnight there
and there and there, afternoon here.
I offer an hour to the 1000 strange,
sucking mouths of fear, and the time-lapse
irises of my eyes flicker this is what it’s like
anonymous, canonized.
 
I’m thirty-two, but still
I wink and wave into the viewfinder
of a German’s high-definition camera.
It’s bad luck to photograph the Buddha,
I tell him. And then,
I’m having my Jesus Year.
 

 
Debriefing

 
Tonight, when I turn out the light and cross the room,
will you miss Naples, where the table water was warm,
and you tried to love the texture of sea urchins bobbing in black stew?
Were the vendors at Castel Nuovo, who sold you leadless pencils,
charming? And the widows, choke-holding their mantillas,
smiling murderously in the market stalls? Do you remember the word
for church and the diminishing smell of candles; the garbage heap
that reached your shoulders, right across the street from the apricot grove?
Is it hard now, even now, to eat ripe fruit without tasting rot?
Do you miss the sad ecstasies of stray dogs that rolled on their backs
when you knelt beside them? The truant trains and the Campari
you drank in the badly-lit bar with Sophia Loren’s twin, not thinking of me.
Yes, I know there’s something about distance, something about novelty.
But, did you like the village I told you to visit, where old men
slung rifles across their backs and trampled the verbena to hunt songbirds,
and tow-headed children cooed to geese in barbed-wire cages,
whispered how tender they’d taste simmering in their own fat?
Did you wonder over the fish bones at the bottom of your panna cotta
why ancient cultures are more comfortable with cruelty?
Tonight, when I turn out the light and cross the room,
when you kiss me, will you hear her singing in the locked reliquary?