It's with relief that the business of show business is easing up and that I can have the leisure time to write what I love best poetry. I' now working on my tenth book of poems Time's Refugee after a line from "Gravedona" which Verse-virtual published in its September 2016 issue. Because of problems with distribution, for those interested, my ninth book can be ordered from http://www.grolierbookshop.org
Stresa—The Borromeo Islands
Since you read Stendhal, Flaubert, De Musset,
Isola Bella seemed a hazy dream:
Ramparts of gardens rising out of water,
Water nymphs stunned into statuary,
Grottos where walls of pebbles and mortar
Formed sea shells and sea creatures,
Rooms with mandolins and violas d'amores,
Balustrades where assignations were made
With a nod, a wink, the snap of a fan.
All was true enough, as the German guide
Declaims in gutturals: This was the conference room
Of Ramsay MacDonald and Mussolini.
Here Napolean slept and stepped outside
To sniff dahlias and rhododendrons.
There in that maze of midget hedges
Peacocks and cardinals mixed, flaunting their plumage.
History, like this baroque estate
Was mere fantasy: Nazis and Popes,
Servants and lizards, water nymphs and devils,
As in the puppet theater before the grottos
Where a procession of townspeople
Display the Deadly Sins that shaped their faces.
You unfold the Herald Tribune under your arm
And stare at the photo:
"Russian Grandchildren Delve Into History."
A woman in a babushka and flowered frock
Weeps over a skull she cradles in her hands.
"Plucked from a mass grave dug in Stalin's terror
Or in World War II." The guide squints as if she held
A relic, then turns back to joke
About a statue of, "A Chinaman
Two centuries old, forse, Mao Tse-tung."
The crowd laughs as if they've lived forever
And moves on to the outdoor amphitheater,
Black and gray in the sunlight, its gardens
Cemeterial, its statuary
Looking past Stresa where Mussolini fled
And the crowd, mindful of history, caught him
By the heels in Dongo, till he swung
Like the pendulum of a Borromean clock.
© 2018 Frederick Feirstein
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