A Demonic Interlude, Colin Dodds

Craig Goodworth, Sheep (fiberglass and steel), 2010


(Audio for this poem begins at 1:59. You may drag the cursor forward to that point)


A Demonic Interlude


Outside the Santo Sasso
my wife searches for a Vatican ristorante restroom
I watch my child sleep in her stroller, and pop
two luscious yellow blisters on my big toe
with the metal tip of a blue writing pen
The skin on the pearls is dead
Ink and pus mingle, squirt onto the travertine steps

Except for exceptionally persistent flies,
it would be a private moment
But a beggar lady’s son ambles over, curious
about another kid, like himself
He’s friendly and not too dirty – his mother
calls after him Don Vittorio

He makes an effort to wake my daughter
I wave him away, and his mother rises from her station
Her mouth is much older than the rest of her face
She gathers him up with the lively resignation
of one who knows she will always be with us

The flies thicken, a pair of nuns leave the church
with its summer-impossible dress code
A grapefruit-bitter disdain descends on the flies,
the pus pool in my sandal, the beggar woman and her
Don Vittorio – a single sin all my fault

My wife returns with a cookie – the bathroom’s broken
Flies, ghosts and a full bladder chase us
past the broad viale to St. Peter’s,
everyone business-casual clean, backpacks in front,
the sun too harsh for flies or penitence

Colin Dodds


Review by Alan Gold

In “Between Dark Stars,” the hypocrisy, the detachment of the manufactured experience of museum art is cynically presented. But in “A Demonic Interlude,” the poet really takes the gloves off . The tourists swarm like flies on a corpse, and the common woman, representing the poor who Jesus said “will always be with us” has named her son the most blatantly stereotypically Mafioso name possible (but doesn’t the Mafia offer a more probable way out of squalor than the Roman church ever did)? I could have done without the pus, but don’t we all feel this massive contradiction when we visit Rome? I appreciated that the poet didn’t even try to balance his perspective. This is one glorious big fat middle finger in the face of Saint Peter.

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