Here in Italy the buildings are the color
Of dead skin and the sky is “tragic”
And the rivers are brown and turbulent
And everybody is always stopping by
To say “Ciao!” and then “Ciao!”
We think a lot about emotion, chiefly
The emotion of love. There is much to cry about.
And after, sleep. One falls in love
So as not to fall asleep. I have just awakened
To the fact that I am not in love
And am about to fall asleep or write an opera
In which someone falls asleep and dies
Or write a letter to a friend or call somebody up
To meet me later for a drink. Maybe it’s too late.
Tomorrow I will go out and buy something to make me happy.
I remember standing in the train station in Pisa
Hoping to catch the sound of an American voice
In the crowd. It’s good to remember such things
When you think you haven’t “lived” enough
Because you need to learn not to regret
What you’ve never done. Fortunately, I remember
Everything that's ever happened to me.
I remember asking a woman I didn't know
Whether or not she was the person I was looking for
And she said, “Yes, much to my regret.”
That wasn’t difficult to remember
Because it just happened a few minutes ago.
Other things are harder. I don’t remember
Right away what I had for breakfast two weeks ago
Last Thursday or the specific date of my first
Masturbation, though I’m sure that with some effort
I could recover the lasting details. I remember
My father using a green hair tonic called “H-A,”
Which stood for “Hair Arranger.” I remember the night
My father tore out a big clump of my mother's hair
In an argument. They were drunk and I came out
Of my room in my pajamas and asked them to stop.
If I said I wanted to fall apart in someone’s arms
You would have to assume I was being sarcastic
And you would be right. No one has arms in which
I care to fall apart, at least not at the moment.
Tomorrow night I am going to see a play about
“A contemporary man in the process of falling apart.”
I think everyone falls apart about twenty times a day.
I’m still confused about why I mentioned Italy
At the beginning of this poem, especially since
It’s all a terrible lie. My students would say
It means “the poet does not know where he is;
Some catastrophe has distorted his perceptions.”
I am drowsy but happy and resemble the corner
Of a big empty room. I am drunk and staring
Into the bathtub. A lot of people are standing
Around listening to music. My fingers
Smell like cigarettes. I am wondering
If there is any way to describe the pleasure
Someone derives from seeing a man’s cock
Shoved up someone’s ass, or how one
Can go on like this, even after having given up
Completely to nervousness, and to death.
I remember the one night I spent on a ship.
The porters woke us at dawn. We stood
At the railing to sight the blue and transparent island
Gaping through mist in the distance. For breakfast,
We ate peaches. I hated the people I was with,
But I must have been incredibly stupid. We spent the day
On the island, seesawed in the park, and waded in the sea.
Donald Britton, "Italy" from In the Empire of the Air. Copyright © 2016 by Donald Britton. Reprinted by permission of Nightboat Books, www.nightboat.org.
Source: In the Empire of the Air (Nightboat Books, 2016)