“Magpie Aubade” & Other Poems by Mike Lewis-Beck

Caffè Quattro Cantoni

This whish of the espresso machina
brings me back to my tiny table
and a half-eaten cornetto—limp—
its crumbs cascading over the Tribune
and La Corriere, barely opened.

I should pay at the caisse but it’s crowded.
Instead I go over, over Laura,
what she just did, what she just said, or not.

Laura’s like an orange, sweet
smelling and giving to the squeeze,
but hard to get into, and once you do
the fiber’s fiberous, hard to figure.

She sits at the table, pops down and out.
Maybe it’s my peek at the newspapers
or her fret about the market basket,
maybe that appointment.

She’s a puzzle, a membrane catching in your teeth.


Garden Buffet at Hotel delle Muse

The breakfast spread centers the sala like a sunflower.
I drop two brown eggs into a make-shift boiler,
dip two syrupy pineapple slices out onto a side plate,
order an espresso, and study the table
map of Rome, tracing my walk with Caramella.

At the next table, a big family—mama, papa,
five bambini, an aunt—they sally back
and forth from the buffet, loaded
with cornettos and clotted
cream.  I take my coffee to the garden.

Under a well-latticed green umbrella I sit,
my sore feet cooling in the pea gravel under foot,
listening to its rub, the only sound going.
A potted lemon tree at my side sends its scent
right to my nose, a hint from Caramella.  I look up
at her shuttered window, think she’s asleep.

The garden has its own life, but the chairs
are empty, tipped plastic backs bent
toward the tables, as if themselves asleep. All at once
I smell cigars.  A waiter walks by, white
shirt and black slacks, a Toscano jutting from the middle
of his teeth, like a smoking train leaving a tunnel.


Magpie Aubade

No light falls, no
rays strike our pillow despite
the shutters open
Chianti bottles, cantucci crumbs
scattered after something—what?
One magpie, yes, magpie it was, flew in,
bespotted my white robe.       You brushed and brushed
the spill spreading over
our bed.  Why?

Cold plates of pasta uneaten—
your handmade linguini—
an apology to God,
the salt clams still closed.


Onyx Blonde: Before Breakfast 


There’s a blonde, on the corner
of the onyx bar in the Fairmont,
reading the newspaper— Le Devoir
—and that does not read devour.

I taste my Gimlet
while she swizzles her Cosmo.
I remark in French, Cosmo—
it goes well with your coral collar.



Waiting for a table at the Fairmont,
my eyes scan the breakfast crowd.
The blonde again, eating her solitary eggs,
gazing out at the basilica, the Reine Marie.

She rises, tosses her serviette, walks by.
I smell her Grace Kelly Gin Fizz, watch
her beige flats, admire the press of her slacks,
note a chipped button on her navy blouse.



Breakfast as usual at the Fairmont
except for the Punjabi fare last night.
The maître d’ seats me by the basilica
window.  It’s too cold so I move.

I study the fleur-de-lis, over a red back
covering the chair opposite. My espresso
comes, black and strong. I spot the blonde
behind a palm—she and the Norwegian.



Freckle-faced summer strawberries
in a white bowl, glistening from sugar,
like Anikka after we swam that fiord,
front of her red cabin.   A strong swimmer, yes.


—About Mike Lewis-Beck—

Mike Lewis-Beck works and writes in Iowa City.  He has pieces in American Journal of Poetry, Alexandria Quarterly, Apalachee Review, Big Windows Review, Cortland Review, Chariton Review, Guesthouse, Pure Slush, Pilgrimage, Rootstalk, Seminary Ridge Review, Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art, Writers’ Café, and Wapsipinicon Almanac, among other venues.  He has a book of poems, Rural Routes, recently published by Alexandria Quarterly Press.