from The Ha-Ha, Part II: I Cry My Heart, Antonio
by David Kirby

copyright © 2003 David Kirby

It’s just as the waiter has brought us
                    a single buttery dumpling
     stuffed with pecorino, parmigiano and ricotta

that arrives after the porcini mushrooms
                    and the seafood risotto
     and before the snapper with tomato and black olives

and the duck in balsamic vinegar reduction
                    that I touch my napkin
     to my lips and say, “There are no words to describe this”

and then feel the sting of tears as I remember
                    where I’d read these words,
     in that book about the trial of the English pedophile

and child murderer who delighted in recording
                    the final moments
     of her victims’ lives, the screaming, the promises not to tell,

her own tapes used in evidence against her yet thought so horrific
                    by the judge that
     he ordered them played in a sealed courtroom

and then, in the public interest,
                    to a single journalist
     who would only say, “There are no words to describe this.”

*

And even though the waiter arrives at that moment
                    to clear away plates and pour more wine
     and ask if everything is good, if it’s all to our satisfaction,

still, Barbara bends close to me and asks if everything’s okay,
                    says I seem a little upset,
     and I cover by telling her the story that Mark’s cousin Antonio

had told me about this prosciutto he’d bought
                    and had put in his basement
     for curing so it would turn salty and sweet and delicate all at once,

but something went wrong, and one day
                    he went down to check
     on his prosciutto, and it was maggot-ridden and moldy,

and here Antonio shakes his head and looks at me
                    with a sad smile and says,
     “I cry my heart, David,” and only later do I realize

I’ve used this story as a ha-ha, which is not a joke but a landscape trick
                    from 18th-century England,
     a sunken fence used to keep cows at a picturesque distance

from the manor house so they can be seen grazing on the greensward,
                    kept by the ha-ha
     from trampling the lawn and mooing at the guests.

*