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



  1. Great moments and flavor in this, Mark.
    I love a historical reference poem that
    transcends time and space. As another
    Gemini, I parallel many of your feelings.

    1. Glenn, I often times see this parallel. This morning for instance, I wrote of water and when I went to visit your site I came across two water poems. Both fantastic poems by the way!

  2. heh i like...what it would be like to visit just a bit with a few you know...i like how he mimics you there in the end as well...and nice close out...

    1. Firenze or Florence was a great experience and an opportunity to reacquaint myself with a history that I hadn't read in years.

  3. Really love this. It even does the prompt one better as it incorporates in your imaginitive encounter the metaphors of past and future to bring to light how the literary nature of so much of what we term reality anyway. I think there is an assumption in the prompt about the past being more real, or there being a real life to which poetry can be counterposed, but that's a disucssion for another day perhaps. Good poem.

    1. Thank you Charles. Yes, the prompt had me thinking of Dante and of time.

  4. I love this - especially when you tell Dante that Canaccio sticks it to Florence when he dies ... brilliant

    1. What are friends for? History makes for great poetry!