Trattoria da Gigetto, Rome
……….Our last evening. We ignore
the explored, chance a back alley. Euros short,
we frown from menu to menu until a terrace
under vines turning to autumn.
……….Paolo brings Martini Rossi
‘not for bill’, positions our rigatoni tenderly
on the table. When the Frascati is low,
he plants an abandoned half of Marino
between us. We count out notes, can’t rustle up
enough for thanks, slink off.
……….Two metres on is yet another
time-gnawed portico arrowing the cobalt,
and a curve of arena. We stumble close
through tipsy shadows.
……….High on a wall, a plaque.
The words that we can understand:
……….OTTOBRE 1943 …
………………..CAMPI DI STERMINIO.
There was the clouded eye of the Friday fish, slatted seats
on trains, basins for breakfast drinks, and no flat bread.
The limestone Lycée swallowed us, stored us in cells,
bounced back our laughter down its corridors, sighed
from its drains at Midland vowels.
I looked up to the haughty on a catwalk, down on strollers
in the Bois from a fiacre which cost several thousand francs,
each sou a seedling dibbled from a tray and pressed
into a pot. With heels in holes from unfamiliar shoes,
the Champs Elysées saw me slipper-shod.
I learned to breathe garlic-Gauloise air, and the twist & flick
of table ‘foot’ from Rob of Loughborough. Tipsy on the scent
of coloured light in Notre Dame, I lost my girl’s-school heart
to Alistair who bought me grenadine. Even the crossing from Dieppe
couldn’t dim my longing to return.
Now there are different mysteries: blind-bend overtaking,
whether to retain the knife and fork, when does Bonjour
become Bonsoir, the favoured way of administering drugs,
graves like greenhouses, church clocks that double-chime
and how many kisses.
Published in The French Literary Review 12
and The Agister’s Experiment (Two Rivers Press, 2011)
Gill Learner lives in Reading. Her poetry has won several awards and been widely published in journals such as Acumen, The North and Poetry News, and in anthologies including Her Wings of Glass and Fanfare (Second Light Publications, 2014 & 2015) and The Day Destroyed (Wilfred Owen Association, 2015). Her first collection, The Agister’s Experiment (Two Rivers Press, 2011) was generously reviewed and her second, Chill Factor (June 2016) contains poems from Agenda 48/3–4 & 49/1. Read more at www.poetrypf.co.uk/gilllearnerpage.shtml.