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 EventsMarch 8, 2015
Dale Herd and Bill Berkson
Location: 2 p.m., Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Chenery St., San Francisco
Description: Herd and Berkson (former ZYZZYVA contributors) read from their new books: "Empty Pockets: New and Selected Stories" (Coffee House Press) and the poetry collection "Expect Delays" (Coffee House Press), respectively. Free. For more info, visit http://bit.ly/1DbQ9HJMarch 19, 2015
Paul Beatty in Conversation with Oscar Villalon
Location: 7 p.m., City Lights Books, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco
Description: The acclaimed author of "The White Boy Shuffle" and "Big Bank Take Little Bank" discusses his new novel, the satire "The Sellout," with ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon. Free. For more info: http://bit.ly/1FXeCHOMarch 26, 2015
ZYZZYVA Presents Quan Barry
Location: 7:30 p.m., Green Apple Books on the Park, 1231 9th Ave., San Francisco
Description: ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon in conversation with Barry about her first novel, "She Weeps Each Time You're Born," described by Library Journal as "fierce, stunning, and devastating." Free. For more info: http://bit.ly/1IL6nKY
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