Norma De Crema

Six Cigarettes in Monterchi, 1994

We have no people here,

no family in Tuscany,

but we’ll pretend to call it home

for just a little while

between your heart procedures

while Amy’s in remission.

And I know I said I’d quit

after your bypass and Tom’s funeral,

but why risk the night sweats

and screaming in this beautiful place

where no one’s expecting us?

No one cares we’re here,

far enough from Piacenza

(where your cousin Italo

might drop by with pears

and wine) and far enough from San Donata–

with its ruddy, stubby men the spit

and image of my blue-eyed grandpop.

It’s enough tonight to fry my pork chops

Milanese and feed the stray cat

you named Bestaccio,

smoking the first of my last cigarettes

in the garden while he enjoys

some scrambled eggs.

I’ll smoke the second tomorrow

at twilight outside the open doors

to Della Francesca’s Madonna,

and the third after cheese and anisette

not quite as good as Meletti

but good enough.

I’ll smoke the fourth that same night.

and we’ll be the kind of happy

that people know they’ve stolen

and they’ll have to pay back

in serious meetings on rainy mornings

and oceans of sorrow.

But tomorrow it’s two hours to San Gimignano

to see the harpist surrounded

by swooning schoolgirls.

And I still have two cigarettes left.

Norma DaCrema is an Italian-American from Baltimore who teaches high school in Villanova, Pennsylvania. A May 2022 graduate of Arcadia University’s MFA program, she has published or has work forthcoming in Ovunque Siamo,The Lyric, The Night Heron Barks, Wingless Dreamer, The Common Ground Review and Viewless Wings. She lives with her son and a slew of cats.