Villanelle for an Octogenarian
I ask my good-mood father, who was the love of your lifetime?
For I am elated this day, with belief in veracious love—
the sky is cloudless, proffering endless time.
From pool and sea, such shimmers, all blazing in our eyes.
Dad’s face, his stance, he’s a cock for sure, but also a single dove—
I persist, who was the love of your lifetime?
In quipped refrains, we go dazed, our speech plays like chimes.
We are tied to luck. Love is lucky, random, dreamt of.
The sky rolls on and on, in bitter, gentle time.
She’s out there somewhere, to not believe—a crime
(he’s had so many!) asserts this chronic spend-love.
I ask another way: Who was your fave of this lifetime?
O fish, O wine, fast-finished. Now, to savor pie, key lime.
Are we past-life addled? (Might I have been his quest-love?)
The sky beyond is cloudless still, rendering endless rhyme.
It’s winter now, life’s drawn down, the candles burn sublime.
A flare diminished, his thoughts, like smoke, float to what’s above.
I pray convey one final phrase: I love you, goodbye.
Only the sky, though clouded now—is blessed with endless time.
Bullfight in Málaga
Long ago, in Spain with my father,
scarcely a woman, I was just out of high school—the day was hot
but not intolerable, men wore
dress jackets and hats. My hair
swept back and wrapped, wisps falling
from the scarf we purchased in Morocco.
And after the picadors did their work
and the bull was bleeding—I bought a sandwich
from a woman with a basketful.
The stadium was full, the bull small—the matador young
and fine, attenuated—in intricate pants
and black-bowed slippers. Aquiline brow, expressionless.
The blood-raw salami had soaked
the bread pink—the look on my face
after first bite—and my father’s cachinnations.
When the bull suddenly gored
the bullfighter’s groin
and held him high on one thick horn, trotting
slowly, the crowd stunned,
the animal’s eyes seeking—
and I stood up and cheered.
You can’t, my father said—and yanked my hand, my brio
clamoring, his receding.
That evening, we shared one book—a world with rabbits
called Watership Down. In Portugal,
they don’t kill the bull, he said.
The matador’s blackening wound
as front-page news the next morning,
with our pastries in the square—el toro y el torero están muertos.
And the sun shone dimmer over us,
tour maps and passports at hand.
We ambled the Borghese Gardens,
lined up like obedient children
led us to the Galleria—
all those creamy statues inside.
Where I sat on a bench to scrutinize
Apollo and Daphne, the nymph naked in mid-run,
teenagers still—the young god pulls her to him, and already
her arms are tree bark, hair dusty,
fingers leafed, and feet like roots.
In one church, Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
She’s having an orgasm
on shards of stone, but I didn’t know that yet.
Each day, strolling the heat, in the cool dark, Rome’s
fathomless art, then we’d find a place
where only the Romans eat, away from the tourists.
Two priests dined at table close to us
one evening. Garlic pasta, onion caramelized lamb,
chickpeas in vinegar. Bloodred wine.
You can tell by their dress, they’re Dominican, my father said
Black ceiling and candlelight, the priests’ mirthful mouths smacking
over linens tucked to their chins, and round,
their bodies, crosses hanging like jewelry. The waiter was their friend.
I almost wanted to be them.
Never a nun, again, as I’d once conceived, I’d become.
Too hidden, the nuns.
So many ways to live a life, the voice in my head.
Fat braided ropes of mozzarella on a platter
before us now, the size of small chickens—
drenched in green oil and crushed spice. The first course.
© Kimberly Nunes
Kimberly Nunes’s poems have been published in The Alembic, Blue Light Press Anthology, Caveat Lector, Mantis, Marin Poetry Center Anthology, The Madison Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection, WomenArts Quarterly Journal, and Adelaide Literary Magazine. She has attended numerous writing workshops and studied with Marie Howe, Sharon Olds, Ellen Bass, and many others. Kimberly sits on the board of Four Way Books in New York City. She received her MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College.