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To pasta secca, pasta fresca.
To the 300-plus types of pasta, more permutations
than there are of men.
To macaroni drying on sticks
over Naples cobblestones in the 19th century.
To the men I’ve loved even more than pasta,
secco and fresco.
To the tomato’s journey from Peru to Italy
just to take its place in a culinary noir of fruit
in which it was viewed as nightshade, poisonous.
How ungrateful the doctors
who denounced the tomato as unhealthy. This is not
an ode to those doctors.
To tomatoes and to men who love all things saucy.
To Parma, which has a tomato museum
and a recipe for a five-course meal
focused on the tomato.
To the baroque opera by Antonio Cesti, Il Pomo d’Oro,
libretto by Francesco Sbarra.
To hot tomato and the man who calls me that.
To Paganini’s early recipe for tomato sauce,
written down in between his fiddlings.
To simple pasta with simple sauce.
To complex pasta with complex sauce.
To a man who goes with me like pasta goes with tomatoes,
a heavenly pairing in which the best pasta and the best men
have ridges, something to grab.
To couplings that work—spicy and juicy.
Inept hunter, without compass, out of Cuzco;
the tribesmen laugh as he slides
on the jungle’s muddy floor.
Daubed with red paint,
he stretches his flab on a flat rock in moonlight.
He’s shed hipster jeans,
wants to shed his New York skin.
They touch him, love him—in sleeping piles—
who hasn’t learned to use a wooden bow.
When they raid their neighbors,
eat their grilled flesh,
his sigh of contentment is louder
than it’s ever been.
He wants to be native, not tourist,
bites into a heart.
They were already dead after all,
he’ll say when he comes home from a place
where outsiders are usually never seen again.
Old and trembling with Parkinson’s,
he returns to them, fearful the members
of the tribe won’t want to remember.
They don’t recognize him.
He’s fearful they’re no longer naked.
They’re wearing jeans.
A reptile has a forked tongue,
good for the reptile, for picking up cues.
You speak with a reptile tongue,
requiem for your tongue, once (I thought)
so whole, so holy in my mouth.
Here’s what happened: The French
invited the Iroquois to talk peace,
then butchered them.
Lenin said trust is good, control is better.
What could I have done differently?
Everyone knows the tale of the turtle
and the scorpion, or its variant,
the girl and the snake.
When the scorpion stings the turtle
while crossing the river’s rapids, they both sink,
but when the snake, sheltered
by the girl’s winter coat, bites her,
it’s only the girl who dies.
I can’t escape your nature.
You are the country of very little talk.
When we try, crucial translations
are missing from my field guide.
The mother ruins her daughter
with handbag inspections
for hidden condoms or cigarettes,
Red-eyed, the TV droning,
the mother waits with Johnny Carson
in a darkened room.
The mother threatens to send her
to a home for wayward girls
for breaking curfew,
her voice breaking. The girl
smashes her fist through
the glass panel of a door,
needs stitches on her wrist.
Arms crossed, the mother watches,
until her daughter swallows
a green and black pill, a girl
tempted to sell the Librium
in the street, no matter living without it.
The girl is a ripped dress,
bingeing on maraschino cherries,
sweetness an unfamiliar taste.
She loves the mother.
She loves more the red.