Rome: such a great city for walking unless
You are hit by a car, as I was tonight, though it was only
A tiny car. The cretino driver had my language progress
In mind as I practiced my idioms and gestures,
Like what they call “holding the umbrella”
(don’t ask, think about it). The driver’s eyes
Told me I had a long way to go if I wished to
Score a point about livestock and his love life.
Still, a sorrowful ghostly city like Rome is good
For dying if it came to that, so many spaces
For monuments, someday maybe one of Me in Language
School, in full command of the imperfect subjunctive,
Which is called the Congiuntivo Imperfetto,
Which sounds like a coffee or pasta but is not.
Later this night a girl in a piazza swathed in moonlight,
Unlit cigarette in her fingertips, asks in her English,
“Have you a fire for me?” Sometimes even Italian fails.
You won’t believe how much you use the Congiuntivo
Imperfetto during foreplay, painting a ceiling, or when hit
By a car. Night times I spent in the Piazza dell’
Orologio—orologio means clock—sweepingly
Subjunctive and imperfect, and studied the big clock
On the tower, the one with missing hands,
And appreciated anew Italians’ conceptions of love
And death and why they were always late.
I am the oldest student in the class by a factor of two.
Also the only male, by a factor of no idea. The Russians
Have atrocious accents but their grammar and miniskirts
Are exceptional, especially with the subjunctive mood.
The goal is to think in Italian, to speak without
Thinking, so I am halfway home. Maybe it was my toga
That turned the teacher against me. I ask her to go
With me to the Coliseum, where everyone soon dies,
As I will, which is why I first came to Rome.
The most beautiful girl in school is from Algiers.
Her black eyes demand I re-examine my whole life.
Oh, the things I could tell you about language school
Would fill a book, a little grammar exercise book
Specializing in the imperfect subjunctive, required
Every minute in Rome especially while sitting next
To a gorgeous sweet Algerian girl named Sisi,
Which in Italian sounds like si, si, yes, yes.
That’s why, if I have to live, Rome is not so bad,
It’s such a sad city, with the best art over my head,
Cars so small that afterward I run back to language school.
ZYZZYVA EventsApril 7, 2017
2017 Library Laureates Benefit Gala
Location: 7 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco
Description: Benefitting the SF Public Library, and featuring guests of honor Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Wiley, and other literary luminaries such as Rebecca Solnit, Karen Joy Fowler, Vanessa Hua, Soma Mei-Sheng Frazier, Gary Soto, and many more. More info about the event and tickets: http://bit.ly/2mq3Gz4April 17, 2017
In Conversation with Edie Meidav
Location: 7:30 p.m., The Booksmith, 1644 Haight St., San Francisco
Description: Meidav, author of the novels "Lola, California," "The Far Field," and "Crawl Space," will be in conversation with Managing Editor Oscar Villalon about her new story collection, "Kingdom of the Young." Free. More info: http://bit.ly/2nxWOiMApril 22, 2017
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Location: 4:30 p.m., Hancock Foundation, Signing Area 1, University of Southern California
Description: Writing and Publishing: Breaking In & Then Some. Panel featuring the National Book Foundation's Lisa Lucas, agent Bonnie Nadell, & Managing Editor Oscar Villalon, moderated by agent Betsy Amster. Free. More info: http://sched.co/A1i5
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