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Amo Amas Amat

Who do you love? Who do you love,
when the man you married goes off

for months on end, quelling rebellions
at the frontiers, or playing hot-shot senator in Rome;

his flashy villa on the Palatine Hill, home 
to another woman, I hear,

one who has borne him offspring.
My days are spent roaming this house,

its vast mosaic walls full of the scenes on Olympus, 
for my husband loves melodrama.

They say his mistress is an actress, 
a flaxen-Fräulein type, from Germania Superior.

Oh, everyone envied me, Illa Bella Negreeta! 
born in the back of a shop on Gracechurch Street,

who got hitched to a Roman nobleman, 
whose parents sailed out of Khartoum on a barge,

no burnished throne, no poop of beaten gold, 
but packed with vomiting brats

and cows releasing warm turds
on to their bare feet. Thus perfumed,

they made it to Londinium on a donkey, 
with only a thin purse and a fat dream.

Here in the drizzle of this wild west town 
Dad wandered the streets looking for work,

but there was no room at the inn,
so he set up shop on the kerb

and sold sweet cakes which Mum made. 
(He's told me this story a mille times.)

Now he owns several shops, selling everything 
from vino to shoes, veggies to tools,

and he employs all sorts to work in them, 
a Syrian, Tunisian, Jew, Persian,

hopefuls just off the olive barge from Gaul, 
in fact anyone who'll work for pebbles.

When Felix came after me, Dad was in ecstasy, 
father-in-law to Lucius Aurelius Felix, no less.

I was spotted at the baths of Cheapside, 
just budding, and my fate was sealed

by a man thrice my age and thrice my girth, 
all at sweet eleven--even then Dad

thought I was getting past it.
Then I was sent off to a snooty Roman bitch

called Clarissa for decorum classes, 
learnt how to talk, eat and fart,

how to get my amo amas amat right, and ditch 
my second-generation plebby creole.

Zuleika accepta est.
Zuleika delicata est.
Zuleika bloody goody-two shoes est.

But I dreamt of creating mosaics,
of remaking my town with bright stones and glass.

But no! Numquam! It's not allowed. 
Sure, Felix brings me presents, when he deigns

to come west. I've had Chinese silk, a marble 
figurine from Turkey, gold earrings

shaped like dolphins, and I have the deepest
fondness for my husband, of course,

sort of, though he spills over me like dough
and I'm tempted to call Cook mid coitus

to come trim his sides so that he fits me.
Then it's puff and Ciao, baby!

Solitudoh, solitudee, solitudargh!

Conspiracy to Commit Larceny: A Recipe

Take the man you think you love and his
fabulous lips. Take him from one place
to the next. Let him drive your car. Let him
drive it through the mood-crazed woods
until it overheats. Let the nights feed
from your eyes as you look at him. Do
not turn on the heat. Do not spill
the flavored oils of the heart. Do not
eat from the palm of your hand
a fluid ounce of what you may need.
Do something illegal. You only have to be
there when they bring the contraband in.
You only have to leave yourself behind.
The stars know. The police will prowl
your neighborhood until the plate number
matches and the car checks out.
When they bring you in, you
must remove your shoes and belt.
You must pretend there was no felony.
Then you must confess. Add your past,
a pinch of the rage you feel, and how
you sit until your father bursts in
and asks whether you have been arrested.
Add a mother who tells you she is
ashamed. An expensive lawyer. The way
you remember the taste of his kiss and
how real he was and how he would
drive dark roads at high speeds through
the back woods with the headlights off.
Remember what the stars see. And how
once it is over the lawyer will send
a letter saying he said you knew nothing,
saying he tried to keep you out of it,
though the police said he had given
you up as they made you say his name.

from The Diary of Kaspar Hauser

translated by Anthony Molino

“It’s an apple, Kaspar.
The tree you see yields it
from the heart of the earth
for it to nourish us
when every other plant sleeps.
So has been decreed.
Behind all things, is truth.”

I try reaching with my hand and can’t.
And it is big and red.
Another died brown on the ground.
Something else eats it.
Behind the truth, all things.

from Il Diario di Kaspar Hauser

“È una mela, Kaspar.
L’albero che vedi la produce
dal cuore della terra
così che noi possiamo nutrircene
quando ogni altra pianta dorme.
Così è stato provveduto.
Dietro alle cose, c’è la verità”.

Alzo la mano e non arrivo.
Ed è grande e rossa.
Un’altra è morta marrone in terra.
Qualcos’altro la mangia.
Dietro la verità, le cose.