Luca Penne

Byron Would Have Understood this House

Byron would have understood this house: mossy brick in pointed Gothic, a mass of gables, metal roofs, vaulted rooms too tall to heat, cozy hidden bedrooms tainted with gasps of ancient seductions. Yet you insist on sex in big light on the lawn where neighbors can gape like turkey vultures. I know the mold-smell in the house haunts your sinuses, but pink as sundown, your nudity offends anyone who doesn’t like Renoir.

In this tasteful neighborhood everyone prefers Monet to Renoir partly because he painted no nudes. So come indoors with your boyfriend, choose your bedroom, do your worst while I shower and dress for work. From all that grunting and wheezing I’d say your lover’s technique leaves desire untouched, but perhaps that’s his lifelong frustration speaking.

The ghosts of this rusty old house creak like dei ex machina but lack dramatic purpose. If you and your boyfriend get chilled that’s ghost-breath—harmless if sometimes rancid with garlic and sherry.

Searching the drawers of my private suite I discover that I left my dressy wardrobe back in Vermont. Too bad, but I’ll have to lecture in rags. Byron would call them a “costume” and wear that with charm and style. He would have seduced you away from your hairy, ugly friend whose fused eyebrows bristle like a hedgerow.

But I don’t care what Byron would have thought. I pack my briefcase with calculus textbooks and exit, slamming the door so hard the pictures fall from the wall and on the sparkling lawn your orgasm almost kills you.

Town and Country

A famous Thanksgiving dinner at my stucco urban palace. The tables arrange themselves variously: two very long ones, four shorter ones, two middling short, one slightly long. I realize the scene is unreal, my guests imaginary, conjured largely from the dead. My father, my Uncle Aloysius, Jack Bate and Herman Melville, Lord Byron and Teddy Roosevelt, Aunt Esther and Henry Adams, Charlotte Bronte and One-Arm Connolly, who killed himself at forty. The rattle of glassware makes a ghastly but cheerful music.

Unable to correlate my guest list, I step outside the urban dream and enter the rural one. A huge maple has broken and half-fallen, angled over the eggshell of my country house. Let it topple and smash the antique slate roof if it wishes. Meanwhile on a nearby ridge of naked basalt a gaggle of teenagers silly with beer is climbing a sullen mossy cliff. I shout at them to halt and descend, but they ignore me. When one falls and breaks her bones with a snap audible for a mile I laugh the meanest laugh.

Nothing will induce me to return to the Thanksgiving dinner I dreamed in a sorry moment. My country house, a sprawl of twenty rooms, is also a ghost of the mind, but it doesn’t repulse me the way the imaginary dead, eating real food in my townhouse, do. I lack a motive for either dream; but watching the huge broken maple sway like the Sword I suppose revenge against myself will do—the brief November day going sulfur-yellow at sundown and the lawn torn by frost-heaves exposing the bedrock.

Luca Penne's work has appeared in several other journals, including 2River, Heroin Love Songs, etc.

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