Richard Cecil
La Notte

I barged into a crowded room

angrily searching for a phone

to place a call to an old friend

who'd passed me on the grounds outside,

shrugging and turning away when I waved.

But when I lifted the receiver

a stranger in an evening gown

shook her head and tapped the ear piece

with her long black fingernails.

Someone was chatting on the line

in what sounded like Italian.

I hung up and stepped outside

through glass French doors into the garden

where couples strolled on lighted paths

or sipped champagne in semi-darkness

by the fountain whose loud plashing

made it hard to overhear them.

Below the tinkle of false laughter

I heard the low hum of real grief

as one couple talked in whispers

while she shredded wadded kleenex

and her partner rattled change

deep in his tuxedo pocket.

Death or divorce must be their subject,

I guessed as I edged closer to them,

but when I got in hearing range,

the man receded in the shadows,

looking for his wife or mistress,

leaving the woman alone and weeping.

Shaken by her sobs, a strap

from her black silk cocktail dress

slipped from her shoulder. Scusa senora

I ached to say as I reached to fix it,

but paralysis gripped my art and throat.

She plucked it nervously back in place

on the softest marbly white skin on earth,

then walked through me, into the night.

I saw, then, that I had no substance

as well as no voice—I was a ghost

among rich, beautiful, black and white ghosts

whose sadness moved me more than my sadness

at being ignored by my once loved friend.

What was she doing in my dream,

I wondered as I fought to stay under

the surface of my unconsciousness.

I knew that waking, I'd remember the movie

by Antonioni or Fellini

I saw with my friend when we were young

and trembled with passion, like the scarlet,

not suspecting that it was false,

while the shallow, bored sophistication

of the minor roles would tall to us

starring in the films of our separate lives.

Found In Volume 26, No. 02
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Richard Cecil
About the Author

Richard Cecil's work has appeared in Crab Orchard ReviewPoetryPloughsharesNew England ReviewThe Georgia ReviewMissouri ReviewSouthern ReviewRiver Styx, and the Virginia Quarterly Review.