Sexy shop

Illustration by Anya Lauri

Yeah, I know
it sounds stupid
but that’s where
Italians go
to stock up on vibrators
and bondage gear
and so on

People here
have trouble
with the idea
that in English
a noun
like ‘English’
(the language
not the nationality)
or ‘sex’
can modify
another noun
for example:
or ‘shop’

Sexy knickers
sexy teacher
no problems there
Adjectives and nouns
go together like
whips and chains

Though sometimes
they’re back to front:
‘mutande sexy’
(knickers sexy)
‘professore di inglese
intelligente e simpatico’
(figure that one
for yourself)

Put two nouns together
rubber plus fetish
more conventionally
wedding and ring
and suddenly
everyone’s scratching
their heads

Beats me

© Daniel Stephens, 2019

Late April afternoon

Illustration by Anya Lauri

Within a few steps from home it’s clear
no adjective could do this weather justice
the sky a school parking lot on a Sunday afternoon
its colour the sea in holiday brochures
the light such that no detail’s missed
shade under the trees I pass forming pools
to splash through or plunge into
Shaking off water like a dog
I wonder whether to dress
or walk on like this
the sun warming skin
blanched by winter

© Daniel Stephens, 2019


Illustration by Anya Lauri

While you kids are colouring
(quietly, that’s lovely,
and it’ll last a couple of minutes)
I’ll do the register

Now, who’s here?
Sebastiano, are you here?
Elena, are YOU here?

Edward, are YOU here?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes
Marta, are you HERE?
Yes (I’d type that in a smaller font, but don’t know how)

Eugenio, are YOU here?
Giacomo, are you here?
(I can see he isn’t
but there’s a tradition to follow:
calling every name)

GIACOMO, are you HERE?
I repeat for effect
NO! Sebastiano shouts back
his tone suggesting
I should know better
He’s sick
Elena informs me

Brianna, are you here?
The last name
on the register,
she’s new
the niece of a former student
from Peru, I think
her mother just told me
she doesn’t speak Italian

No answer, then
but I don’t insist
maybe next time

I modify my voice,
Two more minutes, kids,
then finish your pictures
at home.

“I don’t have colors at home”
Eugenio complains
“I have LOTS” says Edward.

Tell your mum and dad
that colors are important
I say
and everyone nods –
it’s obvious

One minute! I announce
and start tidying away
the colored pens
into plastic pots

© Daniel Stephens, 2019