Trastevere

John Tranter

God, here I am, hungover inside
the little café near the markets, jittery,
scribbling a babble of sentimental language
in my purple notebook emotion container –
no, buy some strawberries
(fruit market) in the sun
from the old Italian women
who mutter ‘Thank you, signora, it’s a pleasure
to serve even a rich and impious
Anglo lady such as yourself, take
another punnet, our brothers take precedence
in our father’s will, but we’re content
with that.’ Now in the context
of the blues – oh yeh –
a love song about an owlet
or a moo-cowlet playing up
don’t seem right. Under the clumsily-painted exit
sign an old lady sits shelling some freshly-picked
peas, delicious, piling them into a mound
on her lap. Her sister fills a large brown bowl
with blueberries and an arrangement
of little lilac petals. I wonder who
that is in the mirror, tossing her blonde curls. It
must be time for a drink – it is!
She dips the tip of her tongue
into her martini, and the repetition
of this gesture is her
way of saying hi, hi there, only
the pink tongue continues
to taste the gin, and she thinks
of those poor old women, not
bequeathed as much as the boys,
but old men’s wills are carved
in granite. They were not articulate,
their clothing was black, their hair was grey.
No, not granite – Italian marble.
Memo – Brush the dust off
Emily’s gravestone.
In back, the old brothers, each
wants to say something, but
each keeps it to himself.
The blueberries, all right, I’ll take ten
punnets, thank you Signora Gamberoni –
sorry, Gamberi – no, two punnets, and
some salad stuff, there, under
the gas stove ad with the flame
painted the colour of tomatoes – oh, and ten
tomatoes, this instant! –
what am I saying? – sorry to ruffle
your feathers like that – be patent –
I mean patient – yes, I’d get sick of
tourists too, in your sensible shoes,
I don’t know how you put up
with jerks like us, with our bovine yearning
for a clean bedroom, a fresh towel
every day, hot baths – don’t you
love the way the gin – sorry, the
vino dei fragoli speaks of the terra
rossa soil that nurtured it? – wave
after wave of Americans, they think they own
the bloody planet. Maybe the extra sedative
I took last night – blemish
in the mirror – who’s that blond
person looking sideways
at me, that gigolo look, as if
I was someone special – uh-uh, ‘blond’ disqualified
by a lack of the terminal gender indicator ‘e’ –
Perec’s lipographic novel paints the modern city
as a sad arena for the hereafter
to fill with cruel laughter –
did you know that? – what a peculiar person
this blonde (click!) next to me is, with her
fake air of neutrality –
rhymes with sensual-ity –
different but equal sedatives – equalibrium –
what was her name
again? Tourists every-
where, they sit and scribble
in their mauve notebooks, equal
parts of prose and gush – lateral
thinking, please! – they go home with
some friend after the café’s closed,
they stroll home, lips
brushing, brain like an eraser
that cancels the vapid entry in her
diary – waiter, another crème de ment –
sorry, ‘menthe’ is what I ment – meant –
just before I passed out
trying to remember the name
of that cute little thing
and that old Leonard Cohen song she sang
in the nightclub – she was a she,
all right, and she spun some line
about love, about how I was just as divine
as the moon in the heavens above,
blah, blah – now who
the fuck was she? Two by two,
hand in hand, my heart
beginning to pound
when she closed the bedroom door
behind us. What’s that noise? Her pet cuckoo –
or was it an owl – owlet – active-
reactive – chirping – what a pair, now
my heart begins to moo
like a lovesick cow. These
strawberries will do just fine, these
ones here. Hey, will you look at this?
No, not the vegetables, the mirror, honey – this
bustling vista full of tourists, this
couple just getting started on this
goofy voyage of learning – thank you – how this
shoulder is for you to lean your pretty head against