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Paul Rabinowitz

Villa dei Misteri
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You hand me a glass of wine walk across the floor and stand in front of a mirror and I realize I have never seen your reflection before and thought it might be a good idea to capture this moment learn a bit more about myself and how I got here so I sprint down the precariously narrow stairs of your apartment push open the door and run out to my car which I parked haphazardly because these days my eyesight tends to be blurred and I don’t have the focus to even check if my car is the right distance from the curb then I remove my old camera from the trunk and still short of breath with heart racing from the descent down the rickety steps or from the vision of your reflection I blow the caked dust off the lens and recall the old postcard of an Italian village stuck haphazardly in your mirror between gold frame and glass and the reflection of your almond eyes flashing like mezzanotte marble reminded me of the winding road to Villa dei Misteri on the outskirts of Rome I traveled on years ago to see a fresco of a maenad her searching gaze deep and mysterious then with camera in hand still out of breath I ascend the narrow stairs and something in your apartment reminds me of a scene from an old Sophia Loren movie when my television was black and white Sophia in Rome at the bottom of the Spanish Steps her smokey eyes reveal something looming deep inside like how I feel when I look at you and am reminded of that winding road I traveled on to Villa dei Misteri when my driving skills were sharp and heart racing with excitement to see the fresco of the maenad and remember when Sophia turned her head and stared into the window of the empty cafe the director captures the reflection and I watched her narrowing eyes peering back at herself as the camera sealed the moment forever on celluloid intimacy that comes only when a woman looks at herself sees truth or a man standing behind her holding a glass of wine haphazardly in his hand looking not at her but the reflection revealing something lost like Sophia’s complex eyes on a black and white screen and you plunge the corkscrew into the bottle of Red Chianti gifted from me who parked haphazardly on your curb in the middle of the night in the pouring rain to leave something at the foot of your narrow steps not only to make you smile but to learn more about myself and how I got there in the first place then you gaze into the mirror and the end of the movie comes rushing back to me when the master director captures that moment that I had never seen before and like Sophia you turn your head slightly away from the lens and with lips closed and eyes narrowing you search the room for my empty wine glass resting haphazardly at the edge of your dresser amongst scattered bracelets hair pins and a ring and I look through the narrow eyepiece hold my breath and straighten my back then with the same precision and skill I used to navigate the winding road to Villa dei Misteri I gesture to you with my hand exactly where your eyes should rest to capture for the curious what surrounds me when I see you and why I ascend the precariously narrow stairs in the first place.


If I use
a phrase 
bird enthusiast
blue eyes

in the 
first stanza
of my poem

will I need
for the middle
or end

to explain
why you
car keys
and exquisite

to meet
a bird watcher

and view
a male

a cactus

to stake
its claim

and shiny


for nightfall
star patterns
to appear

for clues

to navigate 
a vast

half moon
in the distance


I had the most interesting dream last night
about a woman who dressed like Salvador Dali
and a man who dressed like his muse, Gala

Each impression of the other fell for the impression of the other
but when their true selves were revealed the man who dressed as Gala
decided to borrow the clothes from the woman who dressed as Salvador Dali

The woman was so moved, she dressed in the clothes of his muse Gala, 
and together they decided to photograph each other with an old camera
that had no film, yet the idea of the photo that never came to be
became the idea for a novel that was never written

But remained locked in his mind as he removed his tie
and carefully set it on the waxed end of her elegant mustache 

Misteri screen shot 2.png
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