Paul Archer - photo Paul Archer - poet, translator



A Little Italian Place

When people say:
'We went to dinner at a little
Italian place near the apartment',
We can sense that they were in a good mood
And life is going well. Sometimes, it's
'A little Italian place we know',
And we see them shaking hands with Luigi
As he glides them to their favourite table.
It's never a vast, warehouse-like eaterie.
No, it's more intimate
With murals of grapes on the ochre walls
And perhaps photos of celebrities
No-one has ever heard of
And which, anyway, can hardly be seen
As the only light comes from candles
Stuck in raffia-clad chianti bottles
On the linen tabletop, making halos
Where we sit like two saints.
In our hearts we all have
A little Italian place.

Here love is simply to be enjoyed
And not argued over,
Especially when there are more important
Matters to debate, like whether to have
The Tagliatelli or Linguine,
The Valpolicella or Pinot-Grigio,
Before the world fades
Beyond the candle's glow,
The whispering, the touching of fingers.
It would be churlish,
It would be impudent
To have even one cross word. For if we did
It seems the waiters
Would peddle backwards
In their astonishment
Tripping over tables
As they slide apart
And the walls retreat
Into the distance, over the horizon.
It's now a very large place.

But not tonight. No, tonight
We've tasted zabaglione
As simply sweet as first love,
We've been cossetted
In the cradle of the candle's soft glow,
Then ushered into coats
And out into the chiselled night air.
While Luigi, the ringmaster of romance,
Clears our table, readying it
For whoever comes to take our place.
He straightens the pair of chairs
Spreads out a new tablecloth,
So crisp and white. He places
In the centre a candle
And a vase with a single red rose.


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