My companions have gone up Etna today
to hike the rough black lava
on the rim of the volcano,
while I stand sun-struck in the libreria
among shelves of Italian books
and the women who sell them.
They are all aflutter,
like sparrows pecking flung seeds.
At home among the motes and tomes,
they float from mystery to romance,
then on to history. The world
is their bookshelf. They climb ladders
to reach the anterooms of paradise,
then look back, as if this communion
could save me too.
When tonight we retire to our beds,
they to sagging quilts and cold-creamed faces,
I to my tourist hotel on the cliff,
we will snore like whiskered cats
or like the rhythmic ondine waters below,
with their diadem of sand and wave.
Far from Etna’s steamy belch, we’ll dream
of books in tidy rows or lying dog-eared
on the nightstand wailing of human foibles,
our eyes star-burned in the spiraling dark.
Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia in such diverse journals as Poetry Salzburg, Shi Chao Poetry, Journal of the American Medical Association, America, Gradiva and The Christian Century. Her work has been translated into Italian, Chinese, Japanese and German. In addition to five Pushcart nominations, she has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council, The National Federation of State Poetry Societies and Poetry on the Lake. Her sixth and most recent collection of poems is A Light Dusting of Breath.