Poetry Feb 2022
Linda Nemec Foster
The Dead American Poet in Rome (poem should be justified to both margins)
The dead American poet in my dream still smells of life with his white suit, fashionable
cane, and steaming espresso. He sits at an outdoor cafe on the Via Venuto as if he’s
waiting to be discovered by Fellini for an engaging Italian sex farce set in the late ’60’s.
Book awards and Guggenheim Fellowships were never enough, so this dream is his
best shot at stardom: thousands of women screaming his name. Once, I wanted to be
one of those women--infatuated and hoarse. But that was in the boring realm of reality,
not the here and now of the ephemeral dream. Here, he merely amuses me. Now, I
walk to his table and show him the latest edition of Il Tempo . At the bottom of the front
page, a small blue car balances a large white sign on its roof. It looks like an ad for a
pizzeria, but it’s actually an obit. The black letters float in the warm Italian air. The poet’s
eyes try to focus on the name. “Guess who?” I ask him in the muted voice of the dream
There was a time when I was a horse that knew it was a horse. I was a horse for ten years in upstate New York during the 1930s. I had a few brothers who were wild and could not be tamed. Eventually, they were shot. Mr Moses, the farmer, had my brother boiled for glue. As it was, a horse has no feelings, and so I did not hold a grudge to the human though since coming to life as a human, I now fault Mr. Moses. I learned to hate. I hate what he did to my brother horses. But he's long dead and there is no undoing what he had done. So I try to forget my dead horse brothers. I met a woman last week who said she used to be maple tree in the 19th centaur. She lived in Mississippi along a tributary of the big river. She told me that among the events that made her life most living was when children built forts in her branches, and when birds of all kinds nested in them. Maureen, that is her name, said that one time an old trickster, she named him Philo, came and lived under her leaves. Each day he would go into town and snatch anything that sparkled in the sunlight. Then Philo would go about pretending the weird objects were from another star. Some called him a fortune teller. But he wasn't. Philo was bad man with bad intentions. One time I saw him showing a sparkling do-dad to a boy, and that boy up and vanished in plain sight. It was like the bright thing took him. So one windy night during a storm, I called my friend lightning down to visit Philo. I am not proud of it. I did not want to hurt anyone, not even the cruel Mr. Philo. But I could not abide him stealing children the way he done. I hope to find that boy some day, and who knows how many others, living a new life as an owl, or maybe an orange tree somewhere in Florida. Maybe one of them could be a stone warmed up by the sun, and cooled off by the stars. Who knows?