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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing March 2023
Olive Press, poems by Edward Caruso.
The faded paintings of a nondescript street
Labourers drive across gravel
Clouds drift in from the sea
I take my easel to my balcony
Crows, funeral notices on doors
half-finished sketches of hillsides & wildflowers
To amble past elms & backstreets
covered with marble slabs & paved stones
Lemon trees, black grapes, collapsed ruins
An olive grove, its press sounds
A restaurant, smells of garlic in the open
Nearby houses, walls rotted to the brickwork
Crushed olives, their perfume
The dolce stil arias
This world is full of chance encounters
your hand taken by another’s.
Neither is sure when that grip,
tightened, will end.
But the hand taken,
which also sought to clasp,
could not hold on.
A drum heaves, its skin taut.
She says the colour of your eyes,
shirt and bracelet matches
your notebook and attaché case.
You draw the allusion to a darkening sky
enveloping the city.
Yet the sun won’t remain hidden,
shines through rain.
As she disembarks from a crowded bus,
your gaze meets hers as if you both know.
Each goodbye draws you on;
forked paths, threads about to snap.
Baraccano. By the dance floor
you’re infatuated with the woman
who wins all the arguments.
You’ve no love of fascism,
but favour Mussolini
over Hitler and Stalin
for not having death camps and gulags,
copping your new love’s tongue lashing
against all three
to leave the music behind,
rousing late the next morning,
the company of white walls.
You’re god knows where
with little idea who.
Hope your name is sighed
My father would sit next to me
after I’d return from walks
he no longer kept up with,
as if my arrival
ended long absences.
Ships and planes,
and spoken of as years lived,
my father younger than I am now
in this land we never journeyed together,
recollected in our every peregrination.
I bridge estrangement
as we grow more alike.
We follow one another,
bridges and tracks,
shadows resistant to nightfall
and our undying kinship.
Something brotherly marks
what his loss evokes:
the unknown Turin years,
his escape from la Cittadella and Germans,
refuge in Parma at my grandfather’s
and future shoe shop at via Nino Bixio
(now a shiatsu practice).
All my returns –
searching out fragile texts,
past lives extended.
Fathers never leave. Mine would talk
to his, forty years after he’d passed on.
I search photos, homes
we’d lived and streets we’d walk
before Alzheimer’s distanced him.
Lives lived remotely
in the same house,
keys to front doors cut
with no time left.
Photos and cities I search,
places he never saw
Despite arthritic hands
the husband places a lemon sapling
into a muddied wheelbarrow;
his wife, short of breath, is still affected
by the heart attack that left her housebound.
We leaf through an album
of a post-war Adriatic town:
stucco walls, muddied streets
and smile of a nephew scarred by TB
who died young.
I’m gifted a slice of homemade cake and radicchio;
the promise of the sapling when I return,
my neighbours’ hospitality fading as their door shuts behind me.
The next day the husband is found sitting upright, frozen.
When I visit, his wife won’t let go my arm.
We sit where her husband was found,
her sobs overcoming mine.
© Edward Caruso
Edward Caruso has been published in A Voz Limpia, Australian Multilingual Writing Project, ‘La Bottega della Poesia’ (La Repubblica, Italy), Burrow, Communion, Mediterranean Poetry, Meniscus, n-Scribe, Right Now, StylusLit, TEXT, Unusual Work and Well-Known Corners: Poetry on the Move. His second collection of poems, Blue Milonga, was published by Hybrid Publishers in 2019.