Giovanni Franchi

By Mina Loy 1882–1966 Mina Loy
The threewomen who all walked
In the same dress
And it had falling ferns on it
Skipped parallel   
To the progress
Of Giovanni Franchi

Giovanni Franchi’s wrists flicked
Flickeringly as he flacked them
His wrists explained things
Infectiously by way of his adolescence
His adolescence was all there was of him
Whatever was left was rather awkward
His adolescence tuned to the tops of trees
Descended to the fallacious nobility
Of his first pair of trousers

They were tubular      flapped friezily
The color of coppered mustard
What matter
Were they not the first
No others could ever be the first again
The ferns on the flounces of the threewomen
Began fading as she thought of it
Tea table problems for insane asylyms
Are démodé
Démodé

Allow us to rely on our instincts
The threewomen was composed of three instincts
Each sniffing divergently directed draughts
The first instinct    first again    (may
Renascent gods save us from the enigmatic
Penetralia of Firstness)
Was to be faithful to a man       first
The second       to be loyal to herself first
She would have to find which self first
The third which might as well have been first
Was to find out how many toes the   
Philosopher Giovanni Bapini had       first

Giovanni Franchi hooligan-faced and latin-born
You imagine what he looked like
Looked as nearly as he could as the   
Philosopher looked
His articulations were excellent
Still    where Giovanni Bapini was cymophanous
Giovanni Franchi was merely pale

He scuttled winsomely
To its distribution from a puffer   
For the declaration of War
His acolytian sincerity
The sensitive down among his freckles
Fell in with the patriotic souls of flags
Red white and green flags      fillipping piazzas
When the “National Idea” arrived on the Milan Express

Continually cutting off an angle from Paschkowski’s
Through plate-glass swingings
To look as busy bodily
As the philosopher’s brain was
As Giovanni Bapini importuned mobs
From monumental gums
To the sparky detritus
From the hurried cigarette
Of his disciple
Whose papa and mama kept a trattoria
Audaciously squatting right opposite the Pitti Palace
The Pitti Palace however stolid      could hardly help noticing
Being an aristocrat it went on looking
As plainly piled up as ever
The Pitti Palace has never been known to mention the trattoria
Or mention Giovanni Franchi
Sitting in it
At a book
It could not see from that distance
Giovanni watching the munchers supporting his parents   
With an eye
On assuring himself
Of their sufficient impression
By erudition

He was so young
That explains so much
No book ever explained what to be young is
But they look so much more important for that
Giovanni was in continuous ecstacy
Induced by the imposing look of them
When Giovanni Bapini spoke of them
He could not tell
How completely more precious
Would be such knowledge
As how many toes the philosopher Giovanni Bapini had

Now the threewomen
For pity’s sake
Let us think of her as she    to save time
Seeing the minor Giovanni
Sitting at the major Giovanni’s feet
Made sure he must be counting his toes
All to the contrary    he was picking the philosopher’s brains
Happy in the security that when he had done
He would still be youthful enough to sort out his own

He listened at the elder’s lips
That taught him of earthquakes and
Of women—
His manners were abominable
He would kill a woman
Quite inconspicuously it is true
And neglect to attend her funeral
I mean the older man
And what he told
Giovanni Franchi
About these pernicious persons
Was so extremely good for him
It entirely spoilt his first love-affair
To such an extent          it never came off

We have read of   
Trattoria    meaning eating house.
Piazzas    or squares
The Pitti Palace    enormous
And Paschkowski’s      for beer
All are in Firenze
Firenze is Florence
Some think it is a woman with flowers in her hair
But NO       it is a city with stones on the streets

Giovanni Bapini often said
Everybody in Firenze knows me
And everybody did
Excepting—That is      she didn’t
She never knew what he was
Or how he was himself
Yet she uniquely was the one
To speculate      upon the number of his toes
The days growing longer
Fulfilling her of curiousity

She made a moth’s net
Of metaphor and miracles
And on the incandescent breath of civilizations
She chased by moon-and-morn light
Philosopher’s toes

As virginal      as had he never worn them
Clear of ‘white marks means money’
All quicks and cores
They fluttered to her fantasy
Fell into her lap
While she gathered her ferny flounces about them
They inappropriately passed

But Giovanni Franchi was there
He almost winked it at her
That he was there
His eyes were intrepid with phantom secrets
The Philosopher had flung to him
And as she tripped by him
She guessed      these all
All    but the number of those toes

She made diurnal pilgrimage
To the trattoria
To eat
Trout    that might have been trained for circuses
If minarets    grew in miniature whirlpools
And mayonnaise       that helped her to forget
That what is underneath       need never matter

She put all minor riddles out of her
Such as
What was the under-cover of Franchi’s book
Telling to the plaid pattern of the tablecloth
Too shy to interrogate
She sent ambassadors
To the disciple
They returned
Oh rats
Quite manifest    that Giovanni Franchi
Some semieffigy
Damned by scholiums
Knew no more      how many toes—
Than      Giovanni Bapini knew himself


Mina Loy, "Giovanni Franchi" from The Last Lunar Baedeker, published by Jargon Press. Copyright © 1982 by Mina Loy.  Reprinted by permission of The Estate of Mina Loy.

Source: The Last Lunar Baedeker (The Jargon Society, 1982)

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Poet Mina Loy 1882–1966

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire

 Mina  Loy

Biography

Although born in England, Mina Loy worked as a poet and visual artist in Paris, Florence, and New York City, where her beauty and outlandish behavior shone at the center of several avant-garde circles. The eccentric vocabulary and syntax of Loy’s free-verse poems and their sardonic treatment of love can puzzle and offend, but no reader can question the work’s originality nor the poet’s fierce intelligence.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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