Ferdinandea

By MARIA TERRONE

One of several names given to a ghost island that appeared in July 1831

When the buried volcano erupted,
sulfuric smoke leapt from the Sicilian sea,
seeped through locked, felt-lined chests,
blackening the silverware.

It was like rage—flames and letting go,
the sea a bubbling cauldron of dead fish,
a bad taste in the mouth.
An islet rose from the depths—

not glittering Atlantis, but a desolation
swiftly spreading like news of its strange
arrival.  Who can know why four nations
would stake claim to a stark mile

of tufa and pumice, what a naval surgeon called
“unhallowed ground”? Even the gulls fled,
screaming, but not the scientists, dreamers,
adventurers, curiosity-seekers,

cartographers who eyed nearby Tunisia,
and writers seeking mythic inspiration—
Jules Verne, Sir Walter Scott,
James Fenimore Cooper, Alexandre Dumas.

Like a wine connoisseur, someone sipped
the water of its two ponds, living to pronounce
the red one “salty, spicy,”
the yellow one “sulfuric.”

By December, the ghost had vanished
to a smudge of shoal with a new British name.
Soldiers and sailors returned home.
Contessas reclaimed their silver spoons.

Maria Terrone is the author of two poetry collections, A Secret Room in Fall and The Bodies We were Loaned, as well as a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2.

[Purchase Issue 01 here.]

Willa JarnaginFerdinandea

Related Posts

A green garden viewed through a fence

Bella Figura

JULIA LICHTBLAU
The best garden in Brooklyn is like Fred Astaire / Charming but inaccessible. / A private creation for public viewing. / I look down into it from my living room, / Its spilling vines and spruce hedge-tops lend cachet to my garden.

potatoes

Digging Out Potatoes

BESIK KHARANAULI
I receive a letter from mother, / in which, / with a teacher’s stern tone, / she asks me to visit her. / I am busy with other tasks, / or simply prefer to go elsewhere— / to a parallel Georgia / with vineyards, / figs and chestnut trees. / But no, I have to dig out potatoes.

sea urchin

Scarpia (Aside)

RICARDO PAU-LLOSA
I heard those ripened, muted swoons, although/ that was no kiss—a dagger sunk into my chest./ What use authority if it cannot impose/ a hidden will? The songbird, let her muse / the painter in his cavern, his mettle at the test, / while she flickers here for me, beyond sorrow...