For my first week or so at Civitella I wrote nothing. Then I wrote furiously—poems, some tinkering with essays. And then, mysteriously, several short pieces of fiction appeared. I’d abandoned work on a book of stories several years before, and now I know I’ll complete the collection. I’m grateful for that, and for the other gifts of life here—outings filled with paintings and frescos and mosaics; empty sepulchers and ruined stone battlements; the inspiration of my fellow artists; the attentive staff; and the cooks, who must have apprenticed in the devil’s kitchen to bind us to the things of this earth, and make us forget a heaven could exist anywhere except at Civitella’s table.
The gods are rinsing their just-boiled pasta
in a colander, which is why
it is humid and fitfully raining
down here in the steel sink of mortal life.
Sometimes you can smell the truffle oil
and hear the ambrosia being knocked back,
sometimes you catch a drift
of laughter in that thunder crack: Zeus
knocking over his glass, spilling lightning
into a tree. The tree shears away from itself
and falls on a car, killing a high school girl.
Or maybe it just crashes down
on a few trash cans, and the next day
gets cut up and hauled away by the city.
Either way, hilarity. The gods are infinitely perfect
as is their divine mac and cheese.
Where does macaroni come from? Where does matter?
Why does the cat act autistic when you call her,
then bat a moth around for an hour, watching intently
as it drags its wings over the area rug?
The gods were here first, and they’re bigger.
They always were, and always will be
living it up in their father’s mansion.
You only crawled from the drain
a few millennia ago,
after inventing legs for yourself
so you could stand, inventing fists
in order to raise them and curse the heavens.