Monday, August 29, 2011


There is a story from Rome
in the sixteen hundreds
about the church of our lady
of fertility; 

a small parish church, where 

desperate women
who were advanced in age
and still without children
went to pray,
to the priest, 

Father Giacomo. 

They’d come furtively
to the confessional box
just before the closing
for Sext
at lunchtime. 

Father Giacomo 

heard their confessions
and when they told him
they were still
He asked them to wait 

in the sacristy. 

“My daughter
if you really want
a bambino, you will accept
the intercession 

of the Holy Mother Church.” 

The cowed, veiled women
shuffled in awe
into the priest’s

He showed them 

a chair by the table,
and poured them
a goblet of altar wine.
They refused, but Father Giacomo 


“Drink, my child.
I will be gone for a moment.
Please pray so that your family
will blessed 

with  a son 

or a daughter.
Do not be afraid. Remember
Saint Elizabeth. Pray to her.
And please drink. 

We needn’t tell anyone.” 

Father Giacomo
kissed their heads,
as they clumsily sipped
the wine: 

with tears in their eyes. 

And he left.
After a few fearful minutes the Lord
must have sent an angel
to comfort them 

because they all soon fell asleep. 

And dreamt a dream
that made them sing:
a beautiful cherub, with chocolate ringlets 

and sad, sad eyes 

flew into their arms
from out of the flowers
sown in the carpet.
A feeling 

like heaven. 

And when they finally awoke,
Father Giacomo would cup
their reddened cheeks
with his soft, 

warm hands. 

“My daughter, you have slept.
I told you to pray.
But never mind. May the Lord
grant your wish 

to become a whole woman. 

To be a mother”.
And he would lead them out
into the afternoon sun, always
crying and grateful that someone 

had touched them. 

Now, this had gone on
for over ten years.
Every so often,  the priest
was seen 

guiding a woman, 

blinded by the light
out into the piazza dell’annunciata.
Week after week, 

Year after year. 

And though you wouldn’t  call it
(as all births are miracles)
the women (but not everyone) soon 

fell pregnant. 

And the happy families
would take their carts
full of meat, fish and vegetables
as an offering 

to the church 

on the day of the birth.
They would sing, with their friends,
and dance in the piazza
around their little carts. 

The new fathers drunk, 

and the midwives
bloody-aproned and sweating
with a good job
well accomplished.
And Father Giacomo 

embarrassed but happy 

would insist that it had been the work
of divine intercession.
Of Saint Elizabeth. The Virgin Mary.
And that next week 

he would say a mass 

for thanksgiving.
That night there would be joy
and music in the households.
Men would admire 

the shy husband. 

Women would gather
at the bed
of the mother
and child: a boy or a girl 

with sad, sad eyes 

feasting at the breast:
a feeling like heaven.
The young girls
nodding off 

at the edge of the bed. 

Even the priest
would partake of some wine
with the blessed
and happy families 

before heading back 

to the presbytery.
to lock the church,
extinguish the candles,
and chase out the dogs. 

Before going to bed, 

He would take a few morsels
of pork
to the cellar, 

for his little friend, 

with the chocolate ringlets,
and too-big tongue,
and oriental eyes, 

“Grazie, padre. 

ho molto fame.”
“I know, Ugolino.
And perhaps tomorrow 

we will feast  again.” 

Father Giacomo finally died
and the church
burned down 

one Saint John’s eve, 

when some boys had been trying
to steal the wine.
A scuffle was heard; 

the cellar caught fire. 

But the little parish
the guilds were booming
and  the children 


more than the average.
They re-built the church
and it was consecrated
to Saint Elizabeth. 

The old , pregnant woman 

who bore John the Baptist.
Whose head was cut-off
and given to Salome. 

“These dark, chocolate ringlets.
These sad, sad eyes.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Our two countries are sleeping.
They are connected by a stone stairway
leading to the dawn
perched on your shoulder.  

The night is a guest
in this forest.
The mouth having drunk
relives your name.  

The mirror and the river are
calling each other
through the room. Two lights
caught in dark shelves.  

Our two centuries are sleeping.
The sound of birds in the fountain
is borne by the afternoon light. 

The night’s lamp discovers
a body
that sometimes moves
in its dream.

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