by PETER COVINO
Dressed (iPhone Text and Image)
In richly hand-embroidered gray lace,
like the women in storefront dress shops
used to make in vacation villages near
the Amalfi Coast. The stitch and colors
less delicate, garishly saturated, coarser
fabric, tending toward silver-blue; layered
uneven skirt, ample in the midsection,
undulant, just below the knee. Low-collared
to show off ample cleavage, but pinned
modestly in cheap costume jewelry; deflated
balloon of her no longer retaining water,
in an S-shaped interwoven necklace, whose
bulbous knob, seemed a votive figure’s attenuated
head. Luminescent rosary beads, with metal bobs,
and plastic cross. No mention of earrings though
she loved them. Open-toed black slingback
sandals, medium heeled for uncramped feet,
as Schubert’s “Ave-Maria” funnels through Muzak
speakers on Zoom, at my mother’s funeral
that I missed because of travel restrictions.
Her last rites in garbled but passable Italian.
Plant the Trumpet Flowers
Plant the trumpet flowers
With their lush fire and red blooms
Next to the shed and hydrangea tree.
But resist the biblical narrative
Of Revelation’s seven trumpets
Of blood, woe, and bitterness.
Give me Settebello instead.
Express from Naples to Milan.
The slow jazz of luxury trains
To distant cousins.
Golden seven of Italian card games
Scopa—scope and sweep
Of Sunday’s idle, beneath
The luxuriant mimosa’s
Mini parachutes that litter
The makeshift putting gravel
Driveway our uncle laid down
With leftover catrame—
How do you say in English
Tar, pitch? Go on, your turn
Pray the flowers improve
Property value, outlive
Us, specially this bright July,
A gift to generations.
Mountain Village, Ravaged House
Intervals of no electricity
Or running water
Disappeared into the (w)hole
Box of a past death’s
Immigration’s corrective of
Mold-less, acidic sauce.
Each lengthened muscle
And mulish gait
At this distance
A razor-wire gnaw of compression
Hose. Lurid burlesque.
After surgery’s inexorable
Ground down joints
Of history’s incalculable
Just about every actor on Pose
strikes me as amazingly gifted and brave
yet sometimes anachronistic: 2020
insights on a show set thirty years ago.
I want to be as brave and as intimate
when my chiropractor asks why I missed
months of appointments. Because my
gay homosexual lover of many years
is an essential worker, a self-sacrificing
public health physician who believes
it’s inevitable a lot more people
will get Covid. More will die.
Do you really want my privileged ass
to tell you the whole truth?
My back aches. My hands are raw
from trying to scrub away the fear.
After a long career as a professional social worker in foster care and AIDS services in NYC, poet-editor-translator Peter Covino is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Rhode Island. He is the author of the poetry collections: Cut Off the Ears of Winter (2005), The Right Place to Jump (2012), the chapbook Straight Boyfriend (2001), and the coedited Essays in Italian American Literature (Bordighera/CUNY, 2012). His prizes include a FY2019 NEA Fellowship in Translation, one from the Richmond American International University of London; and the PEN American/ Osterweil Award. His poems are widely published in American and Italy and have in appeared in such journals as the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a day, American Poetry Review, Atelier, Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Community RAI Italian Television, Gulf Coast, Seneca Review, Western Humanities Review, and the Yale Review. Since 1998, he has been one of the founding editors-trustees of Barrow Street Press, which in addition to a biannual journal, under my direction has published more than fifty-five poetry titles.
Francesca Borrione is Assistant Professor, General Faculty of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Rhode Island and a doctorate in Education from the University of Perugia. Her research focuses on the persistence of gender and ethnic stereotypes in American and Italian true crime literature and film. Her essays and translations appeared in journals such as, Italian American Review, Atelier, and Ovunque Siamo, and in the edited collections, The Cinema of Ettore Scola (Wayne State University Press) and Contemporary Balkan Cinema (Edinburgh University Press). Her latest essay, “Reframing Il Mostro in Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders: American Killers, Italian Monsters, and the Transnational Imagination” is forthcoming in Clues. A Journal of Detection.
On the cover: illustration by Barbara di Bernardo
You can read the poems in italian by clicking here