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It's just as the waiter has brought us

                    a single buttery dumpling

     stuffed with pecorino, parmigiano and ricotta

that arrives after the porcini mushrooms

                    and the seafood risotto

     and before the snapper with tomato and black olives

and the duck in balsamic vinegar reduction

                    that I touch my napkin

     to my lips and say, "There are no words to describe this"

and then feel the sting of tears as I remember

                    where I'd read these words,

     in that book about the trial of the English pedophile

and child murderer who delighted in recording

                    the final moments

     of her victims' lives, the screaming, the promises not to tell,

her own tapes used in evidence against her yet thought so horrific

                    by the judge that

     he ordered them played in a sealed courtroom

and then, in the public interest,

                    to a single journalist

     who would only say, "There are no words to describe this."


And even though the waiter arrives at that moment

                    to clear away plates and pour more wine

     and ask if everything is good, if it's all to our satisfaction,

still, Barbara bends close to me and asks if everything's okay,

                    says I seem a little upset,

     and I cover by telling her the story that Mark's cousin Antonio

had told me about this prosciutto he'd bought

                    and had put in his basement

     for curing so it would turn salty and sweet and delicate all at once,

but something went wrong, and one day

                    he went down to check

     on his prosciutto, and it was maggot-ridden and moldy,

and here Antonio shakes his head and looks at me

                    with a sad smile and says,

     "I cry my heart, David," and only later do I realize

I've used this story as a ha-ha, which is not a joke but a landscape trick

                    from 18th-century England,

     a sunken fence used to keep cows at a picturesque distance

from the manor house so they can be seen grazing on the greensward,

                    kept by the ha-ha

     from trampling the lawn and mooing at the guests.


from The Ha-Ha, Part II: I Cry My Heart, Antonio

David Kirby

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