Listen to Podcast Interview with Grace Cavalieri on The Poet and the Poem

Open City:  Pittsburgh

Streetlights dim Janet and me:  we're shaken
after a late screening of Open City
at the Carnegie proves too real:  the actor
who played the priest, a hero murdered
by fascists, looked a lot like Father Almo,
our gutsy, heavy-set professor.
Rome was under curfew; Craig Street seems so—
empty sidewalks, closed shops.  An unmarked car

swerves toward us, revving. It lurches to a stop.
A window lowers.  The high school guys inside
smirk—at Janet's dreadlocks?  My beret?
Don't act afraid, she whispers.  Too late:  they saw
me cower, quickly straighten, then attempt
firmer steps and clenched fists.  They still read fear.
A kid leers out, wrings his face into a slur,
hurls a bottle—it clinks across the curb.

The car squats hard on its wheels and roars
past the blacked-out cathedral:  they'll be back,
so we fast-forward, shrink into tree shadows,
slip behind bus kiosks, to Janet's house
on the Heights, where her dad, waiting, growls
good night, slams the door on me.  I could try
a long run downhill to my room, while
the unmufflered ones, future fascist louts,

rampage other streets.  If they return,
there's a little time to tuck into safe space,
a courtyard, behind a hedge or parked car. . .
And yet, I must remember to breathe.
A wind shift sweeps the city airshed clean
of metal and begins to dry my sweat.
Fireflies drift, slow to gleam, slow to release.
I find a crisp quarter moon.  The sidewalk glitters.

Martin Shapiro