Under the Tuscan Sun (2003): A Romance I̶n̶t̶e̶r̶r̶u̶p̶t̶e̶d̶

In lieu of a break down, I buy a Tuscan villa  
with what’s left of the alimony.  
The keys I am given are old and because  
I am a novelist, I imagine my past lives  
as the generations that once lived in this house  
and each one of them is white.  
Citizenship goes unsaid; the visa process unsexy,  
taxing, and therefore not worthy  
of a plot line—unlike
the man who will teach me  
that after a lengthy divorce I can still orgasm.  
He takes me to Rome—O Roma! I already miss  
the Tuscan fields, where the olive trees are plucked  
by Black hands that were plucked from the Mediterranean,  
and from the road, don’t look like hands  
at all, but like
row after fragrant row  
of gnarled branches. Love becomes me in this new city.  
I am always radiant. My body, after all, a vessel  
of history, but I dress it in white, cinched 
at the waist, and no one says a thing. 
I antique shop, never suspecting I could find  
my skull behind glass, just another artifact, price tagged  
and measured, among such fine china. He leaves me of course. 
After all, we’d never survive it; not love or the hours  
long drive between us, but the credits rolling.  
I don’t shed a single tear (I’m lying, enough to flood the piazza).  
Besides, there are many men to take his place, ballads of them.  
Men, who will touch me, their hands staying hands,  
and not blossoming into a rifle, or a colony  
of ants—
this is the pinnacle of romance, I’m sure.  
Men, who tell me I have eyes they could drown in.  
Men, who have never been left to die at sea. I want to  
lie naked in their beds—my desire, simple  
and ahistoric—and rename each place they kiss me  
like conquered territory: Giorgio, Marcello,  
Pietro, whose oiled lips at dinner  
could make a blush cross Mary’s porcelain cheeks.

Copyright © 2021 by Edil Hassan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.