The Garden – a poem

Do you remember
when we were small
and the garden seemed
as though
it went on forever
in all directions?

My fingers itch
to feel the earth
where surely
scars left by our pounding feet
one full childhood deep
must still be there
all these childhoods later.

If I made friends
with butterflies again,
perhaps the orange blossom
and the sap
would smell
just like they used to
on the breeze.

I wonder if
our trees
are lonely now
or do their branches reach
for someone else
to stop and climb them
like we always did.

Do the plums still grow
as plump and gold
as harvest moons?
And do they taste delicious
like the times
we had to fight
the hornets
for the right
to eat the sweetest fruit?

Copyright David Bastiani 2015


Holy City – a poem

Rome.
The home
of saints
and pilgrims
shuffling in
their calfskin leather sandals
and russet robes
of righteousness.

While, down below,
barbarians still swarm
around your walls,
hoping for indulgences
and begging bread,
with trinkets lying
in the dirt
where all of us
can see their shame.

But still you let
the gilded chains
gleam bright around
your own fat neck.
You wear
your sordid affluence
with all the pride
a bloated whore
could ever hope to find.

And so I weep the Tiber
‘til the water runs
around your feet
yet you remain
unmoved.
All along, I knew
that my few tears
could never bring you
to your knees
and so it proved.

Copyright David Bastiani 2015


Metro – a poem

The doors slide
together again
in collusion
against the world
and seal us tightly
from the city
which spins forever
like a cloud
above our heads.
At the far end of the carriage
a shabby old accordion
chokes on stagnant air.

A dark-eyed musician
nurses gently back to life
the box
that holds each fragment
of his dreams.
His toes tap
to the beat of the B line
while grubby fingers
slide their way
across the keys.

The girl listens
a thousand times but still
she hears no sorrow
in the notes.
She is too young
to see behind
her mother’s smile
and so her tiny feet
join in the dance.

At Cavour
she holds out
a battered cardboard coffee cup
and smiles with
her father’s eyes
until a woman
loosens her grip
on a leather purse
and drops a coin
into the cup.

Copyright David Bastiani 2015


The Fruit Seller – a poem

The Fruit Seller

I wander down
the stairs and out
into the street
with my hair still wet
from the shower
and feel the breeze
cold and fresh against my skin.

The fruit seller has
beaten me to it
again,
with his cart
bright against
the concrete grey
of the tower block
behind him.

Hills of golden lemons
gleam
in place of the sun
which is still in hiding
behind the cypress trees.
And I can already taste
the oranges
from across the street.
A smile of bananas
curves around
the sweetest tomatoes,
plump with juice and
waiting like lips
to be kissed.

I walk past again
in the pink afternoon
but the fruit seller
has wheeled off his cart
and disappeared
leaving behind
a hundred peelings
from the sun
lying in their fading glory
at my feet.

Copyright David Bastiani 2015


End of the line – a poem

End of the line

The tram flashes
its yellow stripes
and slices through
the street.
Abandoning
the caged and silent faces
hiding from the day
behind a thousand wheels.

Only the wasps
are free enough
to fly along
beside us
with their engines buzzing.
At least until
the concrete and the steel paths
brush cheeks
and part like lovers.

Further north
we stop
and wait awhile
in the stone cold shadow
of a wall that maybe
once held back
invading hordes
and there we wait
for new and hopefully
exotic faces.

They clamber up
with a bundle of umbrellas
under every arm
and watch the sky
and pray for rain
with sad brown eyes.
But nothing changes
so they sigh
and go on tapping out
a message home.

We rattle down the veins
that lead us closer to
the city’s heart.
I watch the walls
and try to learn
the rhythm of the words
before they slide
beyond the reach of memory.
Earnest declarations
of love and war
and the invitation
to a party that ended
sometime last year.

We swing away
again and feel
the groaning as we sway
with every twisted piece of track.
I grip the rail
more tightly in salute
and stare across
an old grey head
to where the rest
of Rome is stretching out
the night-ache from its legs.

Until we grind along
the last straight mile
that takes us past
Esquilino and stops beneath
the trees
to spit us out
like orange seed
among the weeds that grow
between the tracks
at the Laziali end
of the line.

Copyright David Bastiani 2015


Trastevere…stomping ground of Milo Peretti – Rome’s newest private detective.

Trastevere (Tras-TEV’-eh-reh) is the 13th rione or district of Rome and the home of Milo Peretti, the private detective and main character in my mystery novella, Blood Will Tell. The rione is separated from Rome’s centro storico (historical centre) by the river Tiber, hence the name Trastevere or ‘across the Tiber’.

Tiber

Known for its maze of narrow cobbled streets and the medieval houses that line them, Trastevere is one of the most quintessentially Roman neighbourhoods. To many tourists, this is what Rome is all about. Even the Trasteverini themselves claim that their neighbourhood is the true heart of city and it doesn’t take long to see what they mean. There’s definitely something distinctively vibrant about the place.

Street

Trastevere is a feast for the senses. The colour of the buildings – from terracotta to sky blue, from golden maize to rose wine; all draped in ivy and dotted with window boxes. The rattle and buzz of Vespas as they fly down the street. The freshly washed bed sheets hung out to dry on lines stretched above the streets between apartment windows.

Washing

The air filled with the rich smell of roasted coffee beans and of freshly baked pizza. And later on, the arrival of the street entertainers, artists and poets add to the Bohemian atmosphere.

Street2

Then, open air dining in front of an ancient trattoria, old men playing cards and young lovers strolling arm in arm through a lamplit piazza. This is Trastevere.

Lamp

(Photo credits: Daniele Zedda, Mozzercork, Debs-eye, The Wolf and technologic)


Along The River Po…with Commissario Soneri

I’m reading River of Shadows at the moment. It’s the first book in Valerio Varesi’s detective series featuring Commissario Soneri. River of Shadows was shortlisted for the 2011 CWA International Dagger. Apart from the main human protagonists in the story, Varesi’s descriptions of the River Po and the surrounding landscape seem to give the location a life and character all of its own. Since my Italian roots are in the region of Emilia-Romagna and Parma in particular, this is a part of the world that I feel a strong connection with. Let me introduce you…

PoTurin

The Po river flows more than 400 miles through northern Italy, from its source on a rocky hillside in the Cottian Alps all the way to the Adriatic Sea not far from Venice. Il grande fiume (the great river) is prone to heavy flooding and, in an attempt to protect the surrounding fields and towns, over half of the river is flanked by man-made embankments or argini. Poplar trees have also been planted along the banks to strengthen them against the force of the water. This may work to some extent but the down-side of these flood defences has been that when the Po floods, it does so even more ferociously and with devastating effect.

PoFlood

The Po in flood is the backdrop to a mysterious disappearance in River of Shadows. The leading character, Commissario Soneri, is a detective based in Parma who is bought in to investigate when an old boatman goes missing from his barge on the river. Varesi’s writing is full of brooding storminess and conjures up the image of perpetual rain, mist and swirling currents. The power and menace of the river as it threatens the lives and livelihoods along its banks is painted beautifully as is the seeming contradiction of the serene timelessness of the river.

PoFlood2

There’s a strange symbiosis that exists between the people and the Po. The river has caused destruction for centuries and yet the people who live within its reach rely on it for the success of their vineyards, rice fields, and fisheries. The benefits, though, are heavily one sided. They say that a third of Italy’s agricultural exports come from the area around the Po. Livestock drink its water and the sugar, rice and tomato crops rely on irrigation for a good harvest. Even the area’s power comes from the Po via the hydroelectric plants. No wonder the people of the Po cling to their homes so tenaciously in the face of floods that so often threaten to snatch it all away. They know that while the river takes with one hand, it gives very generously with the other.

This is the way it’s been for as long as anyone can remember. The seasonal dance with the river and its advancing and retreating water. They say changing climate patterns have made things harder but change is a way of life along the Po and things will just adapt and move on as they have done for centuries. The people have taken on the character of the Po itself – always changing but always the same.

PoSunset

Photo credits: turinphototours.it , Giuliano Chezzi, AsgeirFoto and Francesco Zaia


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,102 other followers