Jul 8, 2014

Liquid Italy

Written by John Poch

Read by Geoffrey Brock

— If you don’t drink wine, God won’t give you water.

The summer the Bolognesi went crazy
for the spritz with orange Aperol,
I stuck to chilled and sweating Prosecco
though switched to Sangiovese
and later couldn’t refuse a little red fizzy
(one tries to stay hydrated)
in a second floor flat in Casalecchio
where we three poets had been invited
for a full-blown home-cooked supper
by Mina, Italian grandmother,
who had been warming up the apartment
all day, and what I got to compliment
that perfect 100 degree heat we wallowed in,
Fahrenheit our God, water the religion,
and our Italian host seeming nearly heroic
when she brought it iceless, stoic,
to us seated at the table next to the little kitchen
with the big stove where water boiled, rabid
for the fettuccini while a ragu of wild rabbit
simmered, and only one window of three
was open but no breeze graced us anyway
so our shirts hung like wet laundry
the Italians hang out their windows
(Oh, if someone could have only
hung me out a window), what I got
was a wild boar tortellini
drowned in a salty chicken broth
for starters and then the steaming fettuccine
and saltless bread to soak up the last of the sauce,
and when the gelato finally came
even that added fat to the heat and warmed
our tongues with vanilla liqueur and cream
so thick no ice crystal could hope to form,
of course with grappa and nocino following it all,
and/or limoncello (who could recall?)
thinking the burn up our nasal passages
and down our throats might distract us
while the golden hillside wheatfields drying
bleached under the last of the purifying
Emilia-Romagna sun declining
by, we prayed, degrees
that evening, and the figs in the trees
and the grapes green and waxing clearer
were just beginning to fatten at the height
of summer on the longest day of the year.