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Sketches in Tuscany

Val di Chiana

Dawn behind the hills.
The motorway bears traffic
up and down the spine of Italy:
only and constant troubler of the silence.

Now the cocks and dogs begin
to populate the morning
round a hundred tangent farms.

And the early local train
limps on its track.

At last the sun itself
pumps up and blazes
at the valley’s lip.

Feast of the Assumption

In the campanile, not much ology:
a four-way discord swinging and clapping.
Not much Protestant this bank holiday.

Before Mary was the Queen of Heaven is
and hangs and heeds the clamour from the square stone tower,
three parts full, an outline only, unnoticed.

Soup to Nuts

She, half his height, and hobbling, and wall-eyed.
He was to her, she told the whole town square,
A species of the pig-like kind.

This, as if it brought him information,
The man stooped to receive without reply.
She hauled the species to the bar.

Whether it was drink, or the cool in there
Or the act of the woman who kept the place
Or whether their habitual way:

Without strain we heard, she loved him so well,
Ten minutes later as they crossed the square,
He was to her, her caramel.

Under Mount Amiata

Two clouds, two puffs of smoke, surmount
Mount Amiata. All the rest is blue.
The caterpillar tractor ploughs the hillside
whose three stripes, in gentle differentiation, show:
the hours the ploughman put in yesterday;
this morning’s work, increasing;
and the stubble still to do.

Ristorante La Porta, Monticchiello

About to enter, we stand back as two Americans emerge:
he vast, she continental. Doorways were not made for such as these.
They photograph a pretty child, insistently, as if it were
a sample of the local fauna. ‘So much for a light lunch, then,’
she says to him, and yawns, and stumbles off towards the waiting bus.


I stood in the silent hills
as the red sun closed the day
with a half moon sharp in the sky
and the land all damp after rain.
And a fox came loping by.
It stopped and looked at me, as foxes will,
as if to state a prior claim,
which having done, it turned and made its way.

Audio file

Listen to these poems — read by Peter Hetherington