* * *
Inside Imperato’s Camera delle Meraviglie
Ferrante Imperato directs us to look up
as if to the constellations,
though crustaceans swim above us instead.
Starfish and moon snails.
When we ask, he identifies cockles and conch
among the flying fish—
fans, he says, of water and air.
Meanwhile his son, Francesco,
with a pointer the length of his arm,
aims at a crocodile where a chandelier
should hang. Chameleon and flamingo,
sea urchin and seal, uncanny the face
of what’s that creature looking down at us?
Have we lost our compass?
On what axis are we spinning
in this eely otherworld—
not knowing, all of a sudden, what writhes
or flies. What’s here. Far?
Silent now, our guide
leans against a window’s diamond pane
in the ebbing light of his wonder room
as if to say how thin it is between.
* * *