The House of Wives (Jennifer Compton)

Verity La Heightened Talk

Ah – he said. Camogli. Casa delle mogli. The house of wives.
Because their husbands were fishermen and so always at sea.
Or it can mean houses packed close together. The village
like one house with many wives, calling out to each other
from their windows. Or, further back, after the deity, Camuli.
A sound too much like Ca’mogli to let the happy joke go past.
But – I replied. If they were fishermen then many would
have been drowned dead. The house of widows instead.
That is not the Italian way. We infer, we imply, we don’t say.
But now, of course, it is for the tourists, they sell ice cream.
Paddling on the pebbly beach – ouch ouch – I come upon
a blue clothes peg, her function intact, at the high tide line.
Back in Australia my pegs had gone missing mysteriously
then the day we found a satin bowerbird’s courtship avenue.
The males adore blue, filch drinking straws and bottle tops
and pegs. What had been vanishing was always and only blue.
They used to make do with berries and flowers, which faded,
but amcoplast solvent drives them on to a fresh excess of art,
brandishing the fetish, strutting and tossing, laying it down pat.
This very peg flies home, a gift from Camogli to our bowerbirds.