The Pitti Palace

Florence, May 2017

….. ….. “There’s nothing here,” says the guy in front of me
in the ticket line to his wife, who clearly wants to go in,
….. ….. though he doesn’t. He’d probably rather eat
….. a pizza or a bowl of pasta somewhere so he can complain

….. ….. when he’s back home that there’s nothing to eat in Italy
but pizza and pasta, whereas there is, in addition
….. ….. to the chicken, pork, and beef you find
….. everywhere, rabbit, duck, pheasant, and wild boar as well as

….. ….. the artichokes, spinach, and fried zucchini flowers
that often nestle beside these heroes of the forest
….. ….. or their equally epical if finny cousins, the fish,
….. clams, mussels, and shrimp who are also among the innumerable

….. ….. gifts God put on this earth for us not only to consume
but also wash down with the finest wines known
….. ….. to humanity, including but in no way
….. limited to a Chianti Classico or Fonterutoli or, should you

….. ….. be inclined toward the whites, a Vermentino, say,
or a Regaleali from Sicily. Myself, I’d say Fra Filippo
….. ….. Lippi’s Madonna and Baby Jesus are not exactly
….. nothing, not to mention Caravaggio’s Cupid Sleeping. Of course,

….. ….. Cupid’s sleeping. Who’s busier than Cupid? Why,
Cupid is busier than Baby Jesus, who is also the subject
….. ….. of more than one of these paintings. You can’t
….. look up “Pitti Palace” without running into the word “vast.”

….. ….. Why, the Palatine Gallery alone contains more than
five hundred masterpieces, including works by Bronzino,
….. ….. Titian, Raphael, and Rubens, not to mention
….. the Caravaggio above as well as one other. And dwarves! So many

….. ….. depictions of dwarves, including one Morgante, born
Braccio di Bartolo and then named after a giant, which
….. ….. he surely was at heart. A dwarf is not nothing!
….. Tell a dwarf he’s nothing and he’ll go to town on your coglioni like

….. ….. a cruiserweight boxer on a speed bag or, if you’re a woman,
deliver a series of well-deserved kicks to your shins.
….. ….. But say you don’t like any of that. All evidence
….. to the contrary, say you are right and that the Pitti Palace

….. ….. contains exactly nothing: zero, zilch, zip, nada, nichts.
Point is, when you’re confronted with nothing, you make
….. ….. something of it. When the all-male inhabitants
….. of American frontier communities wanted to organize a dance,

….. ….. they designated half the men as women and slipped patches
over their sleeves to indicate the temporary gender
….. ….. switch and thus make possible a spirited quadrille
….. or Texas Star or Sicilian Circle that blended one into another

….. ….. and ended in a stately waltz. If the fellow who said the Pitti
contains nothing knew more about Italian food, he’d know
….. ….. more about Italian art, not because the one body
….. of knowledge has anything to do with the other but because multiplicity

….. ….. is its own reward since it reminds us that, if there is more
than one kind of food, then surely it follows as day
….. ….. does night that if there is more than one kind
….. of anything out there—tree, hat, musical instrument—then surely

….. ….. there are others of a type not identical to the original
doodad, gizmo, or gadget yet not wholly dissimilar as well.
….. ….. Why don’t you dine with me, my disconsolate
….. friend? We’ll start with, not a fancy risotto, say, but some ravioli

….. ….. with a little butter and cheese, and not the fabled steak
Florentine, either, but a simple slice of pork roasted
….. ….. with garlic and rosemary, and as to the wine,
….. just the house red, which will be fine—isn’t it always?

….. ….. I don’t believe in God, but I know He loves me.
I know He wants me to be happy, and so I thank Him
….. ….. every time I partake of a restaurant meal
….. of the kind described not once but twice above and which, simple

….. ….. or fancy, invariably concludes, at least here in Florence,
with a bracing shooter of grappa that scrapes the moldy
….. ….. flaking walls of my soul and then directs
….. me to and through the restaurant door, my head high, my step

….. ….. confident on the way to wherever it is I am going
but not before pausing at one of the many gelaterias
….. ….. that dot this city for a single scoop of whatever
….. is just right for the moment: pistacchio, say, lemon, melon, mint.

David Kirby

David Kirby

David Kirby's collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” Kirby’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please.
David Kirby

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Author: David Kirby

David Kirby's collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” Kirby’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please.