S U O N A P E R T E
The bell strikes five from the tower of San Michele:
the seventeenth hour has slid away; a late September sun
has spilled along and off the south-faced wall, and soon this
beautiful, ravenous, vast city in the valley of the Po, its elegance
and industry, its desperate imprecations, the crowds that bay
and sway in the catafalque of San Siro, for Baggio, Shevchenko,
Zanzara, Volpone; intricate pinnacles and ladders of sound,
confections, conspiracies; minna di vergine on the pasticcio’s glass
counter shelf, somewhere with saffron risotto al salto, somewhere
a slit or truncheon, sirens and mayhem; all subtle, immediate
human exchanges – come va? come sta? or vaffanculo – matrons
encrusted in coral and amber, and anywhere, everywhere grace
of flesh and eyes and favour, ragazze with backpacks or Vuitton
or nothing; in a morning (God, less – take two stops on the metro)
perfection in appearance: innocent and wary, or down the stairs
in boots and hair, meretrix incarnate, blatant tits and vacant stare
(not this one), which even the dim or insensate must savour;
in the heart of the city, Stazione Centrale; O Santa Sofia, I’ve seen
your handmaidens, have worshipped abashed and chap-fallen;
dritto, sinistra, tenere la destra – what turn shall I take now? my soul
in the Duomo’s half-dark disconcerted, so I light a tall candle;
dove dovrei girare? alas the sad pigeons adrift in the piazza, alas for
the clapped-out green nag under Pepe Missori; O Lucifer, your
handiwork and artisans are legion, in CISCO and Squawk Box
and NYMEX, Komatsu; excepting, no question, the white flat-
topped sisters, or by Porta Romana in ‘the street of the orchards’
Piera’s trattoria (no nonsense, no menu, just stump up when she
asks you) – carpaccio, tortino, her gnocchetti verdi; O San Benedetto,
benedictions in return: each day, lips, tongue and throat slaked
by your watery benevolence; but all these, my brothers and sisters,
must founder: this night or next night we all will go under; if not
on the feast day of great San Michele, at four in the morning,
or in before lunchtime, or soon like the city in the hour that’s
just struck now; shuttered or shadowless, in the flatlands
of Lombardy, Milano, unparalleled, lies down in the dark.
It is an ideal occupation for children
on a wet afternoon
put them head to tail in an oven proof dish
and remove any pips
score as above or into little bars
do not roll for this also toughens
cover with foil with a weight on top
wrap the birds in the bacon rashers
melt the fat in a saucepan
turn over when little bubbles appear
whip the egg whites very stiff
then coat the other side
take out with a perforated spoon
add watercress, fried oatmeal or skirlie
when cut it is a soft pink butter
the gravy is served separately.
The last time I saw him
he was loath to take
his eyes off two frigorific
local fillies, pacing along
the Coogait – half way
between Bannister’s bar
and the mortuary gate.
no grudge music
words are in
the breathing ground
MIND THE GAP
Of course there is an error
in the cleanness of the sea, and
for the landing of eggs outside the
compound something must be done.
Whereas tea and honey are merely
in decline, the lemon slice has
taken a holiday and may not return.
The wind in the chestnut trees
I assume has been taken for granted.
Conversely, firing of the jackhammer
at 7.15 occupied my full attention.
It is not that the women are not
wonderful – they are – but that
they are out of the question.
Elzbieta in particular has
legs that go nowhere.
What is the matter with the
butter on that dish? Is it possible
I will forget the mixing of cement
that followed my early re-awakening?
Agnieska could have been more
pleasant in a number of respects –
nevertheless, her lower lip has a
quality I do not discount: that is
as far as pinkness and durability
Can no one here fix a proper
time for appointments? The canal
is empty; the remaining ducks
are in a state of confusion.
As for myself, I would
take a tram. But number 6
runs away; whereas 13 and 12
come together, overcrowded with
unpleasant people. It is risible
what the taxi driver has suggested.
Well, nothing could be
further from the truth. I did try
the scrambling of egg; still the
marmalade was beyond my grasp.
What does Bo’zena think
she is up to? When she dances
it is plainly disconcerting.
Perhaps we should all sit down.
No it is not my turn.
I think after all there was
something funny about that slice
of sausage. Whatever unravelling
you had in mind will probably
now have to be postponed.
Disappointment is everywhere;
but when notice is short, displays
of pique are not unforeseen. Adjik
has gone off at a tangent once more.
What happened to his finger is no
longer our concern. I suspect the
biscuits have gone off with him too.
Unfold the map, and re-affix
the dog. Perhaps the jam will work.
I did spot some pickles and preserves
in the cupboard in the bathroom.
Port side is always best.
On the green part there is nothing
that will serve. If it comes to that,
take care to salute the quarterdeck
when piped on board. All hands take
great offence if this be neglected.
A SATURNO CONDITUM
My friend, across the space
within this ancient hill-top town
everything gives breath to what
we wish or might aspire to.
Whatever the Volscians, whatever
those who built Cyclopic walls
before them felt, we feel.
Seeking beyond beauty or
ambition one at least to share
‘an unguarded joke’
fireflies at night.
Hospes et humus – guests
a little while then gone.
Broom, elder, lemon-flower
the fragrance of valerian.
All this in a loom of light
is shuttled back and forth.
Swifts and martins carve the air.
Each olive tree on every
slope is shaped to give its
tiny blue-green song of praise.
Mist at midnight,
in what we choose
to name or work:
in this case gilly-
in clove-scented air.
CARBON ATOM by Alexander Hutchison is published by Link-Light
(47 Camphill Avenue, Langside, Glasgow G41 3AX)