is an American writer, artist, and educator who has been living and working in Italy for most of the past 30 years. She is presently Executive Director of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria.
Mess of Clams
Catching clams at low tide on mud flats
you push aside rockweed and kelp,
look for spit holes.
When you find them, you stamp your foot
and water squirts up from each hole
signs of life, families of clams buried in damp sand.
You could use a rake,
but we have always favored the shovel .
My father’s weight, a rubber boot pushing down on a spade.
The loud suck of mud as he pulled up a wedge of stench,
blue black sand, multi-legged clam worms, bits of shell.
Clams burrow straight down, discharge saliva.
Their waxy necks extend as long as a foot,
fatty bodies barely protected by thin shell,
so easy to shatter even with bare fingers.
Steamer clams, butter clams, then deeper still, horse clams.
We count the raw bounty on barnacled rocks.
And with dinner in a wooden hod we head for home.
The Dinner Party
I gather up the crumpled napkins
Tilt glasses towards the drain
Where a last bit of red wine empties.
I roll up Mother’s linen cloth
Toss the place cards in the trash.
All my guests have vanished,
Drifted out as they drifted in.
And now night pushes weather far away
All clear to the Milky Way.
I see its path when I step outside
Into a sharp relentless cold.
Shaking out the cloth
Crumbs for tomorrow’s birds.