Giacomo oscillates between the fear of death and the yearning for it
I felt it. The weight of its torment
threatened my day like the nightmare flows
from Vesuvius threatened
those who farmed its slopes. This molten menace,
so frightful to me, kept me looking back
over my shoulder, uneasy, afraid,
just as these tenants often sneaked looks back
at the peak, fearing sudden fracture.
Death: the final cataclysmic rupture.
But then: those placid afternoons when I
sat on the porch above the city, peered
over the vineyards, the rows of fruit trees,
beyond to the azure bay—celestial.
Released, my fear of death.
Giacomo, exhausted and sad
An admirer wrote a letter, praising
my poems with the poignancy of youth.
He so loved them, even in translation.
A boy enthralled with words, afraid
his feelings for my poems unworthy.
Oh, that I could write for such fond hearts.
I answered him. My deliberate hand
scribbled the truth my aching body held.
I told him that I was not a poet.
I told him that I had accomplished little.
My attempts at poems, merely this:
to a life that never was, to hopeless
accolades that hovered beyond my reach.
Giacomo, when his nights were cloudless
The stars—I wished they were the words I wrote.
The night shadows—sly, fickle illusions.
The moonlight—heaven’s pallid waterfall.
My life faded into the dark vineyards,
faded into the deeper dark after
the moon dropped below the horizon
and with it any joy that I have felt
for men, for life, for my time in this world.
Then sorrow, that crepuscular insect,
fluttered around my heart before it stung
my last desire—to know no other pain
than the pain of being truly loved. Alone,
I sat outside the house. And I wondered:
can a living person know his own soul?
Ranieri, on Giacomo’s last day
At first, I did not believe he had died.
He could not breathe. His asthma awoke.
He said, ‘It is time to call the doctor.’
I was afraid for him though he made jokes.
The doctor said, ‘You must call a priest, now.’
My sister lifted his head, wiped the sweat
from his brow. Then his face darkened.
He stared up at me, his wide eyes frozen
open. He no longer breathed. His last words,
‘I can’t see you any more,’ still rippled
through my chest even as his chest stilled,
even as the barefoot monk prayed for him.
I yelled my friend’s name. He remained silent.
In death, he became like all men—nothing.
Giacomo, on his corpse
My corpse saved from rotting. My corpse detained
on route to its burial. My corpse entombed
in the church sacristy. My corpse enshrined
under a carved stone. My corpse safely buried.
My corpse become famous, its crypt opened.
My corpse found to have rotted, its bones mixed
with the crumbled wood. The skull of my corpse
disintegrated into the sordes.
The remains of my corpse’s bones moved
at last to a cliff near Roman ruins.
The same stone marked my corpse. I rested there
where I once gazed over land and sea.
Legend says that Virgil’s corpse lies nearby.
Poets, even as corpses, linger on.
David Cappella, Professor Emeritus of English and 2017/2018 Poet-in-Residence at Central Connecticut State University, has co-authored two widely used poetry textbooks, Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves and A Surge of Language: Teaching Poetry Day to Day. His chapbook, Gobbo: A Solitaire’s Opera, won the Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition in 2006. He recently published a novel, Kindling. Currently, he is co-translating Tracce di un’anima, the poems of Italian poet Germana Santangelo. Visit his university web site: http://webcapp.ccsu.edu/?fsdMember=249