July 29, 2010
I pick up Signor Giovanni at the beach, on the golden shores of the Ionian.
Take a picture, he commands, seeing my camera.
He draws a tattered poem from a pocket. Per te, for you, he says, already addressing me with the familiar form. The poem has lines like this: You’re a beautiful table, so bountiful I barely know where to begin.
I thank him and return to my caffè-shack “office.” He follows and pulls from his breast pocket a chapbook of poems.
“Mine,” he says. “I wrote them all.”
Opposite each love poem is a black and white photo of his younger self in various poses: flexing biceps on some long-ago beach, posing in a smart sailor outfit next to some long-gone naval vessel; rowing an antique wooden boat. “Look at those addominali, he says, pointing to his youthful six-pack.
I scan the poems, charmed that this man—who says he’s had a hard life farming tomatoes and only four years of school—has produced this work.
He says his poetry has opened doors, including to the nearby Club Med, where he’s met oh so many foreign women.
He writes down his phone number and asks about a husband.
C’è ne uno,” I say. There is one.
He shrugs. “Non importa.” And hands me another poem—this one called Paradise For Us.
Have you met Don Juan in Sicily or elsewhere?