I – Panorama

My eye is on the mountain in late
afternoon light, its monastery alive
the darkness of pines I can smell
from here, the rocky island
silhouetted in the bay

and you
in blueness, the soft sky

sea and the shops
selling Napoli shirts
but it has to be these
small plum tomatoes grown
on the slopes of Vesuvius
so sweet, so special.




II – Pompeii

Arms thrown back, face down
dirt-wards, I mistake plaster bodies
for inescapable ash
a set too hard to take in

and you
saying I’ve smothered, drained you

and it’s easier for passengers to sit
on the train than take the wheel
skimming the hem of the volcano.
I would’ve handed it to you had there been
a direction worth following.




III – Herculaneum

Lava, tufa, cinder, rock
for an easy build, hands
unburdened by pumice, add brick
tile and there we have it, a town
with marble for altars, few columns
buildings in the shadow
of a smoldering peak.
Make your house on a bulge
in the mantle and expect burning

and you
blowing the top from the cauldron

and I am no longer a complacent
citizen dailying about my life.
You say, even now, you want me
home, sealed in ashes
or facing another fire?




IV – Nel mercato

The largest lemons ever, melon-sized
thick-rinded, ripening, hang heavy
in solo nets, plucked from trees
somehow without tearing branches

and you and me
on different stalls either side of the sea

deciding how this will work.
I hope for enough sugar and skill
to spit pips without taking out an eye
or burning my stomach anymore.
Already drops of bile feed back
I’ve not brought any kaolin or morph.




V – Negozi chiesa

Monstrances, incense, statues,
robes, religious bling, how many
precious Jesuses need cribs?

and you
pretending it’s my fault

leaving you standing, naked
in the light as a babe, unable to fend
for yourself. What stopped you?
You are not a child.




VI – Sotto la villa color ocra

A white bearded goat nibbles
shoots on the cliff
sure-footed me on the right
though stoney path

and you
busy excavating, rerouting

making forks appear, switching back
forth, confused. The road is through
wild rosemary, self-seeded mustard
heat rising from the tarmac
a beacon, flaming.




VII – Il parco giochi

Wisteria purples the air sweet
for a moment of childishness.
I swing under its scent, you
beside me, our legs 
too long for the ground
my seat squeaking

and yours
silent as spring

as the gap growing between us
small as the leap to earth
when much can happen
in those seconds of flight
before the drop.




VIII – Capodimonte

The art collection in its decrepit
palazzo of ox blood walls is
impossible, even down to its café
serving soggy pizza.
We walk miles for a Caravaggio
Christ flayed

and you
emptying my heart

leave tatters, close down sections
of my past, declare them over
blacked out, filled with chairs
where I am no longer allowed to sit.




IX – Palazzo Reale

Sumptuous in its gold, its swags
clocks and ornaments pushed
to the sides of the splendid rooms
floors sheened high, but closely
in the royal palace there’s
dust, the dirt of decades

and you
leaving us.





[Kate Noakes’ sixth collection is Paris, Stage Left (Eyewear, 2017). She is an elected member of the Welsh Academy and her website ( is archived by the National Library of Wales. She lives and writes in London.]

Copyright © 2017 by Kate Noakes, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.