Summertime in Italy

Brilliant orange smudged with gold
a lazily shaped cloud lies along the skyline
like a fire eater off duty and relaxing
at the beach, driven mildly crazy
by a large beaker of wine perhaps
while not far inland a sirocco rustles
through a Corriere della Sera
turning dog-eared at the feet of pines.

Ah daydreams, swimming trunks, cicadas!
Shades of ice-cream and balloons!
The sunlight stores up energy
like a horse at a gymkana
where differences in colour
count more than any prize
and lest it get overbearing
zephyrs provide a hint of blue.

Viviana, my mind’s imprinted with your name
and that trip in your father’s boat
across Lake Como one madcap June:
A mountain squall turned the water
miles of green and moments later
the weather switched again, a middle
distance painter revising his ideas...

Inside the Duomo was cooler than any drink
and shadowy Ferrara’s belltowers sent
the pigeons flocking like a roll of drums.
Even the cars are pretty, said your eyes.
Up on its hilltop a dozing Arezzo
dreams saintly processions across
the intonaco of time-cracked walls.

Below the ramparts noon signals shadow-
squadrons into swift retreat.
A team of oxen, colossally slow,
seems to collapse a field’s verge.
Still as cardboard at the reins,
only a yeoman stops them, plough
a tiller exchanging green for beige.

Back in Florence truculent Tuscan farmers
protesting against the latest meat tax
set the cobbles echoing like marakas.
Too old to pay it any mind, the Arno shrugs
a verdant shoulder and then winds on.
Cypresses duskily dissect the slopes
into neat rectangles and squares.
The end of an affair spiderwebs a room
in one of Treviso’s five hotels. But basta!

Melancholy’s a drone for another clime and season.
Ignoring the yells of sandwich-sellers
the express whistles, terns and swallows rise
above the station at Venice Maestre.
How well the tracks know all the operas!
At a shift of points the chorus switches
From Mozart to Donizetti –
Behind buff-and-pastel houses the sea
steps out in sequins toward hump-
backed islands and a meeting with the moon.

Genova, Rimini, Sorrento! My heart’s a belfry
haunted by your vowels’ sweet clarity.
Only the British Council bustles with busts
and does not see the Renaissance
continuing in the twilight’s strides,
tender depths of a signora’s smile.

Erice with its head in the clouds –
Selinunte's tumbled temples –
Etna smoking like some great uncle
recalling the furies of his youth –
These and other fleeting scenes, salute!
That run downhill from Fiesole
when my shoes grew wings
and I thought I’d never stop
yet now relive in your touch and gaze,
ah names like rural sportcars
headed for Alpine tunnels, forest’s
flickering gallery of shade
to which the moon holds the only key...

Martin Bennett | Mudlark No. 12
Contents | Bird Souq: An Expatriate Guide