Opera Bouffe

The count of cappuccino,
the marquise of meringue,
all the little cantuccini...
and what was the song they sang?

Oh, the best of us is nothing
but a sweetening of the air,
a tryst between the teeth and tongue:
we meet and no one’s there

though the café’s always crowded
as society arrives
and light glints to and fro between
the eyes and rings and knives.

We’ll slip away together,
perfect ghosts of appetite,
the balancing of ash on fire
and whim—the mating flight

of amaretti papers,
my petite montgolfiere,
our lit cage rising weightless
up the lift shaft of the air.

So the count of cappuccino,
the marquise of not much more,
consumed each other’s hunger.
Then the crash. And then the war.

More Poems by Philip Gross