the heart of Italy: for Carl

there is your sense of empathy
a deep understanding
of the foibles of the human race
reached no doubt
from your reading
your advanced degrees
your close contact with people
your ability to listen
as well as discuss
a wide variety of subjects
it always amazes me
the range of your knowledge
and though at times
your voice takes on the tone
of the classroom
and the professor in you
begins to instruct all
within the sound of your voice
it is never dull
and the warmth in your eyes
speaks volumes of your background
from the soil
of Italy
we were raised
and you embody all the qualities
that country stands for
an aesthetic sensibility
you had strife in your life
an ex-wife who tried
though unsuccessfully
to poison your daughters
against you
and now you stand
a widower
mourning a wife you helped nurture
to academic success
a vast emptiness now
you are still struggling to fill
and you will
for women love you
you emit a musk
that they find intoxicating
it’s not charm like Chuck
but a sweetness
mixed with intellectual prowess
a safe zone to breathe
and you like to be the gardener
helping the women
you become involved with
to blossom, to grow
fulfilling their dreams
with your unconditional support
a Henry Higgins with heart
not a selfish bone
in your body
we had Chuck in common
who introduced us
and though I think the three of us
were only in the same place
at the same time
we always speak of one
when we speak to the other
my most cherished memories of you
are the dinners we had in The Village
at Hasaki
the sushi and sashimi
the bottle of saki
green tea ice cream for dessert
wandering the aisles of the Japanese grocery
up the street
Rita and Barbara getting lost
among the rice bowls and tea sets
the food items
browsing among the shelves
at St. Marks Book Shop
which is not on St. Marks
but the corner of 9th Street and 3rd Avenue
recommending titles to each other
sharing poetry
bumping into Ren Weschler
tea at a tea house on 2nd Avenue
the conversation
the laughter
the warmth of friendship
the heart of Italy
in the smile
in your eyes