The stifling claw of the southern Italian heat
And ash-laden mood
weighted my expectant heart,
with every Sicilian breath.
Sweet citrus scents
and soft oleander fragrance
cloyed my thoughts,
Wafting my wispy hopes
and hazy Italian dreams.
The Calabrian border taunted
with its distant closeness.
Town piazzas teased.
Ancient sculptures jeered
with antique jibes and gazes.
The Noto cherubs and grotesques
Smirked, with baroque smugness.
Winking, with knowing,
telling eyes and smiles.
And whilst the fresh Ortygia market soothed.
Whilst the Tyrhenian coastline calmed.
Whilst the silken bitterness
of stark espresso mornings
lulled my brooding thoughts,
It was no use.
In vain, Etna offered,
with her lower–sloped arms,
a gift of groves and jays.
But the wild-flowered garland
that crowned and softened her forlorn heights
Could not bridge the solitary distance
from her scattered Aeolian family.
And nor from mine.
Whilst I searched the mountains,
ravaged the seas,
and plundered the tables;
Savouring the tangy taste and memory
of sweet lemon-drizzled gambaretti crudi.
I still fringed the persuasive landscape
and life, with an unforgiving heart.
Ignoring the summons of bells
From goats and churches.
I bowed and grazie-d
With a heartless tourist will.
I knew with every ounce of denial
That this was Italy,
to the bone and quick.
But still I cast away, betrayed,
with sacrilegious purpose,
something that had once been held so sacred:
That long awaited, aged, cherished dream.