La Casa del Diavolo

i

Dear A. — Nailing crockery to the walls
was not something I ever understood,
but Simonetta’s maiolica falls,
like this sideboard, painted wood,
under the enchantment of a freehand look — 
a curling script, a loose grape tendril,
the forms that hecatomb smoke took
purling to a Roman god’s nostril    ...    

Because geranium is crinkled
in the spillage from the wishing well,
now outdated and backfilled,
this whole place evinces the nature
of a souvenir plate. Another tell:
the mosquito flourish in its signature.


ii

The rustic bicycle, like a pen
that spent its ink, wrote an invisible sentence
to the ramparts and back, now and again
rolling through the arches of an aqueduct
dowsing with its sixth sense
across the hillsides. Locals tucked
plastic water bottles under spouts
chiseled into lions’ pouts

stationed at intervals, like shrines.
Their cars idled while they stooped,
and on Sundays even formed lines.
They trust this water more, Lorenzo whooped,
than what comes out of their taps?
The sources snake beneath the maps.


iii

The little terrier Amore, they warned me,
had eaten the seat belts; so there I was,
my friend, fearing whiplash in the back seat
(no headrest either!), in all respects afloat — 
Simonetta on alert for signs of gallantry,
like the wives of those diminished Casanovas
who dream they’ve merely grown discreet.
And the dissertation she once wrote

on courtesan-poetesses, fancying herself
of that ilk (“Like me!” — a phrase she’d strew
among her compliments) gathers dust on a shelf.
When I think of Boccherini’s metacarpals
interred beneath the soppressata marbles
of the duomo, I think: Casa del Diavolo. Those two.
More Poems by Ange Mlinko