“Dedicated to G. Verdi. Because It’s His Birthday.”

Good afternoon, John in Paris. Can you hear 
your city station by transatlantic phone? 
“This one or that.” Of course I don’t know who the tenor is. 
Since I forgot your birthday 
this July this seemed an apt excuse 
to phone. Or haven’t you a phone at 14, Rue Alfred Durand-Claye 
O sage of the Rue Alfred Durand-Claye? 
All that’s different since you left 
is the widening crack above your bed. 
They’re not taking this building down a minute too soon. 
And a beige monster with an air-conditioner duct 
under each aluminum casement blocks what was a view. 
Sometimes I feel like I just dropped in here 
to say good-bye. It takes a heap of leaving 
to get a house condemned, I reflected 
reading Van Vechten’s Parties (again, for heaven’s sake) 
how Hal broke his arm on the steep stairs. 
You typing at your desk, a letter for a map-lined 
envelope, or reading La Modification 
explicating Pixérécourt. Jane’s portrait still is fresh 
though dusty. I just unearthed Frank’s 
copy of F. T. Prince’s Poems. Dated Ann Arbor. 
Oh dear. 
I wish you were here. I’m feeling rather like Leopardi said, 
Don’t wish your Saturdays to haste away. 
They will anyway, 
                 Lina Pagliughi 
is about to sing “Caro nome.” It’s enough to break your heart 
        “Daddy! why are you upset?” 
        “It’s that vile damned race of courtiers. 
        Don’t talk to men in church.” 
Without the phonograph and the radio, 
what has the twentieth century to offer? 
The National Geographic. Remember to send 
the article I clipped for you on glider flying 
in ’31 in Germany. Or maybe ’30. This phone call 
into the fond void of international airmail 
(the flautist is fluting on a pre-Columbian 
ocarina I think)—Acquapendente— 
        aren’t you tickled by place names 
that only rustle up a stop for dinner in the rain? 
Like a Spirit of ’76 spot 
that means a leak and coffee in a Greyhound post house. 
The hero sandwiches north of Boston, 
a liberal helping of 
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company 
mixed salad on salami. . . . “Cara nome” 
lacks a bit of the old Red Seal magic 
of Galli-Curci. It livens up when the hunchback 
cusses out the gang. I wish it were raining 
on the Boulevard de Sébastopol and I, squelching 
along, mildly certain to encounter you— 
for an instructive stroll. I wonder what became 
of Mealy Potatoes? Write 
or phone.