(originally published in Poetry SuperHighway)
Italians have known since the beginning
how I can make a woman beautiful —
it’s all in the eyes, they must be receptive,
or impenetrable, they must soothe,
or provoke, they must be wide with innocence,
or with knowledge. People feel like nothing
unless observed seriously,
by a woman with eyes like black stars;
everyone knows the way children call
Watch me, lady, See what I can do!
That is why those seeking beauty
dilate their pupils with my sap…
I was also named for Atropos,
the Fate who severs the thread of life.
I sever men’s hearts, I am that beautiful lady,
I am atropine — I am stinging red
juice used for the dilating effect.
When I so desire, I flower singly or in pairs,
nodding, my corolla blue-purple or dull red,
according to my mood, or the soil I twine
my pale roots in. So who do you think you are,
holding back a polite cough? Deep down, you know
you fell the second I looked at you, seeing right through
your clothes to the naked body you hold so dear.