ACQUA DI PARMA and other poems by Frank Rubino

Not that green afternoon,
when walking by a taco truck
near Montclair High School,
I felt a bird drop a load
on my forehead. It was like a
squeezed-empty toothpaste tube.

More that Piero della Francesca
in the Sainsbury wing in the National Gallery,
Baptismo de Christo.
Piero animates Christ’s face
with a wince, as though he is
tickled by a trickle
down his scalp,
the back of his neck,
along his spine.
Finally, his loincloth catches the holy drip
in the swaddled canal between his glutes.

Here is my Acqua di Parma
smashed on white marble.
My high school kid knocked it off the shelf,
nosing around my bathroom.
My friend recall when you bought me
that little phial.
Us moving
like a pair of young horses
to the perfume counter,
where the salesman said
put on your tie, fix your suit,
get it perfect, then
a few drops on your lapel
and only now
are you dressed!


Like a plastic surgeon
you have imagined different forms
for your own body. If this part were thicker, if fat
were scooped away. Arms an inch longer,
nose sharper, neck shorter.
Feathers, horns, a beak. Suctioned arms
on a baggy head. Uni-cellularity:
a single sheet of homogenous fabric sailing through space,
propelled by light.
I love my body,
but I didn’t always. It was a long
seduction. And just when I got to love
myself I realized there are no selves.
My body changed. My mind,
I hardly remember the old shapes.
I take off my shirt and stretch my arms
I take off my pants and see my dick,
my leg muscles so powerful.
My body gives me good sensations.
And it’s been my place, my couch, my lair, my realm,
my relief, my affliction.

The cat just bit my arm
for no reason, he pounced on my body.
Teeth marks signify you’re owned
by circumstance. A mouth,
a creature, an event that came to be
at the sharp end of an impulse.
Do you have tattoos, scars, teeth marks?
We are just busy people. That is the sum
of the mystery but I will say hi if our eyes meet
on a train platform, if I pass you on the sidewalk,
hurrying. Put aside my frets and worries.

I got these shoes long ago
to be married in and I sent them
back to the factory twice.
The last time they were so bad,
holes worn through the soles,
it took them months to rebuild them.
They came back to me, essential qualities intact.
The impression of laces I pulled
still grooved in the lacestay.
The bagginess of my own stride,
my feet stretching the vamp’s leather
as I’d run and my feet had slid
in these envelopes, these gloves that took my shape,
still had my shape.


My dear friend, that sunny London corner.
We had just seen
Hamilton’s white album cover and tiny Pop
Tootsie-Pop collage as well as several nude
vacuum cleaners at the Tate.
I had on that shirt I wore for years,
you and I had picked it together.
I loved your eye and let it guide me
on Jermyn Street and Saks
when you came to New York.

Paul was there and darling Gigi.
She and I repaired
for a chop and glasses of wine.
And for an hours long chat,
sitting at the bar in St. John
Nose to Tail for 9 hours. Eating a single
chop, so much talking and drinking.
Gigi loved that shirt with its purple stripes
converging diagonally,
its dandy pointed collar
and wide cuffs. And Paul had asked
“Are those real sunglasses or just
to look cool?” “Paul,” I said,
“they’re to look real cool.”
Paul’s hair was a black scribble.
You pull one strand and the whole thing unravels.
You’re a nice guy, said Paul when
he teased me insisting I kiss his Gigi,
but I would not.

In their stone house,
La Suminette, Gigi offered
to heat up the milk for the coffee.

And Barbara and I drank
coffee constantly, depleted the whole
supply. Paul was about to boil!
Gigi whisked the milk in a
saucepan on the stove. I always do
my own coffee this way, ever since.
Gigi do you know that, of course you don’t:
you’ve died. You put on a character,
Marie da Sud, filling her basket
with twigs. Provincial French sketch comedy.
You loved to do dances and animal impressions—
chimps and horses.
Some friendships are so merry.

Two black holes spin around each other,
faster and faster, until they get closer,
and a gravity meter
records a gravity wave.
A gravity meter
is mechanical—
two long beams at a perfect right angle.
When gravity moves it distorts their joint
and the waves manifest
at the vertex, as the angle
gets microscopically acute or oblique.
As when Gigi died the compass of our lives narrowed down

My dear friend: Remember I stayed with you once and we tried
to find Charlie Chaplin’s among the colored front doors
on the Kennington Road,
waiting for the number 3 bus across Waterloo Bridge.


Someone showed me his code
my eye was activated and alerted.
When your eye is alerted
you can discern space
from no space,
which is how I got the job,
noticing his mistake.

I look at people’s feet
in search of shoe ideas,
but sometimes a woman’s foot
arouses me like nudity discovered
in the woods, under a restaurant table,
in grass, in carpet.
Like a small animal hiding
far below her brain,
her face,
out of range
when the woman’s public head sweeps over
the scene of order.

In Vermont, I can smell the mowing,
see dilapidation in buildings, swayback walls.
Roadside and trackside fills me with
detailed human-animal story.
My eye is activated,
my senses fill with delight.

Senses are like phones or internet routers
that mostly work, sometimes fail, sometimes
corrupt information. People plug into
information, what’s the wireless code?
People crave the information stream,

plugging in feels great,
and dying is being unplugged from the eyes,
the ears, the nose. Animals can reveal now,
free from observation.


Light rips the ocean’s edge—
the bright horizon advances.
Haze overtakes the view.
The lifeguard pulls up her hood,
runs to the red flag,
pulls it close to her chair.
“Now it’s only safe”


Frank Rubino’s poetry has been published in Vending Machine, DMQ Review, The Cape Rock, Caliban Online, Caveat Lector, The World, Little Light, and New Directions. He has been performing his poetry since 1982, reading at St. Mark’s Poetry Project, The Ear Inn, The Cornelia Street Cafe, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and numerous other locations in and around New York. Like most other poets he knows, Rubino has a job, in a tech startup. He wrote a lot in his 20s and stopped awhile to focus on family. Now he’s back. Rubino lives in New Jersey with his wife and four children.