Friday, July 15, 2011

Gelato with Dante

(parvi Florentia mater amoris)

Dante is my next door neighbor
We sit on the bottom step
of my eight flight walk-up
on the Via Corso
eating gelato pistachio

The sweat pours down
our shirtless chests
on a sweltering July night
in my present
and Dante's future

Dante doesn't think it right
to be shirtless
on a Florentine night
But I tell him that it's OK
in my day and age

There is another man from Florence
who will be immortalized
alongside Dante in marble
along the Arno
along the Uffizi

His name is Vespucci
and they name my future country by him —
Dante smiles and repeats the name —

I tell him about Hell's Kitchen
in my New York City
and Dante borrows my pen
He's taking down notes
something about an inferno

Keep writing, I say
as I tell him about visiting his crypt
Dante's impressed
until I tell him
that he's not in it

You were exiled, I say
breaking the news and breaking his heart
You never come back
Maybe that's why, he suggests
that we are here tonight

Maybe that, I say
while shrugging my shoulders
and maybe
its because
we are both Gemini

Dante studies my movements
one of us is a visitor
from another time
he doesn't know a shoulder shrug
from a fuggedaboutit

Hesitantly, smiling, hesitantly
Dante mimics my actions
Don't worry, I say
Canaccio sticks it to Florence
when you die.

— Mark Butkus