Luigi Marchini

A Renaissance Kind of Cool

Geometry governs the arc of her smile;
spheres, circles, parabolas fuse with cubes,
squares and polyhedrons. Pyramidal lines
corroborate images.
Her folded hands, bust, neck, face-
a pyramid. A golden triangle.
Leonardo drew her face and body from neck
to hands in the golden rectangle.

The horizon split in two,
left side higher
than the right. Undulating rivers,
winding paths, abundant hills
beckon. An escape
from this anaesthetizing pose.

Leonardo’s sfumato technique renders
outlines weak, merges forms,
mellows colours, mixes light
and shade so we never know
the time of day.
Forget the golden ratio,
Euclid’s elements,
and Fibonacci’s sequence,
she should turn around
and run.

- Winner of the Canterbury Writers Poetry Prize 2006

Gnocchi and Barolo

I made gnocchi yesterday.

It wasn’t easy, my hands more adept at
holding pens, making love than kneading
one kilogram of potatoes, five hundred
grams of plain flour together, beating,
squashing the mixture – King Kong
and the citizens of New York or me exacting
revenge on my brother via his perfectly formed blue
plasticine models of a Spitfire or the Titanic.

I made gnocchi yesterday.

Later the family sat down to dinner -
Bolognese sauce, a 1998 Barolo standing guard;
the gnocchi could have been better:
the dumplings weren’t smooth, my hands not powerful
enough to do the deed; the Barolo, however, tasted like
the scent of Dolce Gabbana Light Blue
pierced by the early morning sunlight, and its
colour was red gold.

I made gnocchi yesterday.

My mother cooked gnocchi on my eighth
birthday - it was a different family that sat down
to dinner then: no more can I see my grandmother-
La Giaconda – at the head of the table, smiling,
or my aunt on my right, so close I could touch
her dreams; now there are daughters,
wives, nephews, but they were not there on
my eighth birthday.

I made gnocchi yesterday.

My grandmother and my aunt, did they
eat gnocchi on their eighth birthdays?

I made gnocchi yesterday.

Did Garibaldi and Mazzini taste gnocchi before
they spilled blood the colour of Barolo uniting
the country that bore my grandmother,
my aunt; did Mussolini devour gnocchi before
marching on Rome, or just before he got his
comeuppance: his body trussed up,
a bloody pig heart, not beating; and if
he did was it washed down with a glass
of Barolo, Chianti, or a crater full
of fear; did Verdi savour gnocchi as he composed
Macbeth, and planned Luisa Miller, Rigoletto,
while on the same continent the Irish
starved -no potatoes for them,
just grass and weeds for the lucky ones: those alive
herbivores now, like the mule deer, the prairie dog -
one wasteland is like any other.

I made gnocchi yesterday.

I can still taste the beef and tomatoes
of the sauce and if I squash my
tongue between my teeth I can squeeze out
little bits of potatoes; and I can still see my grandmother,
my aunt - only now they are dining with the Giuseppes
and Benito, company for potatoes
and the shells of deer and rodents.

Biography: Luigi Marchini was brought up in London where he spent many a happy maths and physics lesson at the Natinal Film Theatre.