from by Lee Foust

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An expatriate returns Euphorically to Florence.




New white electric sneakers, a row of lights in the rubber souls, saw-teeth scraping the blacktop at every step, fingernails down the blackboard, baby crying in the next room, like you left your cellphone somewhere strange, forgot to take your Lithium—and it's getting dark.

I, on the other hand, feel good right now. No dead-end hysteria today; no, siree. They let me up out of the airless tank today, and I don't care that nothing means anything anymore, that nothing means anything sometimes, or even that something doesn't always mean anything later on and that we'll all be dead in a hundred years anyway—all new people! Imagine that—or that they just elected that crook president again. They're all crooks anyway so who cares; it might as well be the crook we're used to rather than a crook we might trust.

Skeletons are smiling today.

These are the days during which I enjoy peeping through the creaking door and mentally groping the passerby.

Today it's armoire-changing weather. The Americans are already bra-less, tank-topped, their layered stomachs protruding—belly-button rings and all—over the brims of their low-waisted jeans. Flip-flops, dirty blond hair, stubble, sunburns and cow eyes; not exactly stupid, but ominously intent on sticking their muzzles into the short grass, endlessly still and green: Florence's infinitely chewable cultural fodder.

The natives, however, are all winter-zipped up to their throats (invisible steel poles still firmly fixed, from their ass-holes up through their spines to their turbaned heads) and pivoting their characteristically disapproving sneers from right to left and left to right as they exit their individual voting booths. No tan lines. Yet.

A half a billion cell phones connect to the other half a billion cell phones in a bitter exchange of pleasantries: “Dove sei?” and “hai mangiato?” Yes! Fried baby entrails with parsley and saccharine—doctor's orders, I'm trying to cut down on starch and cholesterol.

The war is over! Long live MacDonald's!

Of course there are the cars of Italy; old news, devastation, the collective expression of my own suicidal tenancies. The moment in which going back to smoking almost seems like a good idea comes and goes.

Even this city, “where the almighty willed that my lady should live,”* looks like potential cow cud today, endless waving fields of consumability on sale, snot dripping from a loose tendril or two. The sun comes and goes—a Doors LP cover to a London fog in a global something or other salad—and i'm euphorically alone on my park bench for the first time in eighteen years.

I'm attached to life today, in the trenches with Ungaretti—and the war's over. (Evviva il cellulare!) This is just mopping up operations, washing the dog shit from the sidewalks of Florence, fertilizing the Uffizi for the cows to come (despite the cost) this summer.


This, however, is the last academic IRT, freezing cold in early June, drunk and hard, alone and eerily alone because “Love is all around why don't you take it.”* I'm feeling the contours of the gray matter tonight, sensuous brain-flesh touched first by the gaze and then the squishy fingers of subway lovers, no pain despite the exposed sinews of pink and gray—the brain never bleeds like it should. New York City is always like this, inside out, talking to you in the street, pushing you out of the way, smiling at you, ignoring you, half dressed for the summer heat and the dampness of its own tenuous existence, opening you again and again to all desires and then plunking you down sweating and cold in a refrigerated subway car.

From island to island, coast to coast, death, blight and destruction incorporated of Saskatchewan, Ontario in the orange and black television screen—oak-wise from Oaktown a home is a home would smell as sweet would be a place if I were an I but I'm everyperson on this train in euphoric in-between Saturday night subway riding martini-smeared sensuality.

In-between again, like all good second acts.


And now I know that home—there is no home—desire—there is no desire—and that the heart is where the mind hangs its hat.

It appears that the summer has finally revealed what could only have been dreamt of in the spring: that the spaces through which I was destined to pass would be as empty as the heart to which I had for so long pledged my faith. I knew then that the boobs would come out for the summer and they have, that the Florentines would change their armor and armoires and they have, that the tourists, my fellow Americans, would come and go home again, chewing this town up like pizza and cannoli in the process, and that all of my prophesies have come to pass.

New York is alone now, hot and cold and humid, 8th Avenue has lost its voice and smoky Oakland swelters while the rest of California burns dry and golden in the sun.

Between veltro and veltro, I turn back to these pages for consolation and advice and the page mirrors my spaces perfectly, my expectations of both disaster and comfort, my loneliness, my solitude, my understanding and my now hopeful future—and this Cassandra can still see how it will be: it's going to be a long, cold winter.


from Sputnik, released March 11, 2016


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Lee Foust Florence, Italy

Lee Foust is an author and performer from Oakland, California who has lived in Florence, Italy since the mid-1990s. He teaches for various US universities abroad and is the father of one. Lee is the author of Sojourner, a collection of short stories and poems about the mystery of place, and Poison and Antidote, 9 Bohemian tales of San Francisco during the Reagan era. ... more

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