David Cappella

David Cappella



Giacomo oscillates between the fear of death and the yearning for it

I felt it. The weight of its torment

threatened my day like the nightmare flows

from Vesuvius threatened

those who farmed its slopes. This molten menace,

so frightful to me, kept me looking back

over my shoulder, uneasy, afraid,

just as these tenants often sneaked looks back

at the peak, fearing sudden fracture.

Death: the final cataclysmic rupture.

But then: those placid afternoons when I

sat on the porch above the city, peered

over the vineyards, the rows of fruit trees,

beyond to the azure bay—celestial.

Released, my fear of death.



Giacomo, exhausted and sad

An admirer wrote a letter, praising

my poems with the poignancy of youth.

He so loved them, even in translation.

A boy enthralled with words, afraid

his feelings for my poems unworthy.

Oh, that I could write for such fond hearts.

I answered him. My deliberate hand

scribbled the truth my aching body held.

I told him that I was not a poet.

I told him that I had accomplished little.

My attempts at poems, merely this:

unfathomable prolegomena

to a life that never was, to hopeless

accolades that hovered beyond my reach.



Giacomo, when his nights were cloudless

The stars—I wished they were the words I wrote.

The night shadows—sly, fickle illusions.

The moonlight—heaven’s pallid waterfall.

My life faded into the dark vineyards,

faded into the deeper dark after

the moon dropped below the horizon

and with it any joy that I have felt

for men, for life, for my time in this world.

Then sorrow, that crepuscular insect,

fluttered around my heart before it stung

my last desire—to know no other pain

than the pain of being truly loved. Alone,

I sat outside the house. And I wondered:

can a living person know his own soul?



Ranieri, on Giacomo’s last day

At first, I did not believe he had died.

He could not breathe. His asthma awoke.

He said, ‘It is time to call the doctor.’

I was afraid for him though he made jokes.

The doctor said, ‘You must call a priest, now.’

My sister lifted his head, wiped the sweat

from his brow. Then his face darkened.

He stared up at me, his wide eyes frozen

open. He no longer breathed. His last words,

‘I can’t see you any more,’ still rippled

through my chest even as his chest stilled,

even as the barefoot monk prayed for him.

I yelled my friend’s name. He remained silent.

In death, he became like all men—nothing.



Giacomo, on his corpse

My corpse saved from rotting. My corpse detained

on route to its burial. My corpse entombed

in the church sacristy. My corpse enshrined

under a carved stone. My corpse safely buried.

My corpse become famous, its crypt opened.

My corpse found to have rotted, its bones mixed

with the crumbled wood. The skull of my corpse

disintegrated into the sordes.

The remains of my corpse’s bones moved

at last to a cliff near Roman ruins.

The same stone marked my corpse. I rested there

where I once gazed over land and sea.

Legend says that Virgil’s corpse lies nearby.

Poets, even as corpses, linger on.


David Cappella, Professor Emeritus of English and 2017/2018 Poet-in-Residence at Central Connecticut State University, has co-authored two widely used poetry textbooks, Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves and A Surge of Language: Teaching Poetry Day to Day.  His chapbook, Gobbo: A Solitaire’s Opera, won the Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition in 2006. He recently published a novel, Kindling. Currently, he is co-translating Tracce di un’anima, the poems of Italian poet Germana Santangelo. Visit his university web site: http://webcapp.ccsu.edu/?fsdMember=249