Melanie Culbertson
Love Letter from Italy

The Roman ruins at night:
time jagged, broken, and stacked
upon itself.

A short, pot-bellied man serenading us,
his head resting upon a barely-stringed instrument,
as if it were a pillow.

Evening sun filtering through doors of the hilltop church
overlooking Firenze, while two boys from Wales
film the day dying below in slow, yellow time.

Floating among purple jellyfish in a Manarola
cove and not getting stung.

Standing on a hidden rock in the middle
of the Mediterranean against the wet chest
of a new husband.

On a boat anchored next to a thin, rocky beach,
a woman dancing a slow tango to only
the sound of blue.

In medieval paintings, skeletons singing in hell
and camels with many heads drinking blood
pouring out of a woman’s mouth.

Swimming by a gondola, a rat
big as a cat.

In St. Mark’s Square, a fat woman
cackling and screaming at the pigeon on her wrist
alongside a hippy mocking the Charleston,
knees knocking, to make his son laugh.

While we lounge on a terrace close to the sky,
a woman calling her slippery rhythm through
an open window, just before the bells
of the village tower herald the silence
of the night.

A short time later, an elderly couple below
attacking the dirt in their little garden by the sea,
at an hour I normally do not know.
Melanie Culbertson, a Salyersville native living in Louisville, is assistant professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, Indiana. She also teaches as an adjunct instructor at Spalding University in Louisville and formerly taught at the University of Evansville, Indiana. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing at Indiana University and has published fiction in The American Literary Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Puerto del Sol, The Louisville Review, and others. She was nominated for two national Pushcart Prizes



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