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This poem is taken from PN Review 214, Volume 40 Number 2, November - December 2013.

'Prize-Giving' and Other Poems Ian Seed
Prize-Giving

The poet P. resents having to travel with me to Italy for the ceremony. He is a full-time professional while I have only just published my first collection. In the airport lounge, he takes out his laptop, puts his headphones on and stares at the screen while I drink my coffee. He only comes to life when one of his female students appears from nowhere. Tearing off the headphones, he picks her up and twirls her around. She is half his age, the same age as my daughter, who yesterday while we were out walking in a nature reserve approached a stag with enormous horns. The stag did not move away, but stared at her with friendly curiosity. It was only when I came near him that he turned and fled.



Youth

Three beautiful Italian sisters lived next door. They were triplets, and all three were in love with me. Everyone said how lucky I was, but when their father demanded I make a proposal of marriage, I didn't know who to choose. For even when I made love to one of them, even when I held her gaze and our bodies trembled together, I never knew which of the three I was with.



Poet's Pipe

In an old tobacconist's shop, I stumbled across a curved clay pipe, like the one smoked by the Italian poet, Cesare Pavese. I couldn't resist buying it. My Italian friends, who were all left-wingers and admirers of Pavese, were impressed when I took the pipe out of my jacket pocket, lit it, and puffed away as if I'd been smoking a pipe all my life.

The next day I was with my friends in a packed car driving down Via Roma in Turin. At the corner of a square we stopped outside a bar frequented by neo-fascists. My friends asked me to light my pipe. That would impress the fascists. They would realise that the lefties had a long-haired Englishman on their side.

I couldn't find my matches. However, as I puffed on the pipe and pretended to smoke it, a glow appeared. Somehow an ember had stayed alight from before.

One of my friends jumped out of the car and went into the bar. He pointed at me smoking my clay pipe. Soon the fascists and lefties were all pointing at me, and they were all laughing together.



City

I lived in Milan. I hadn't had sex for ages, yet one morning I noticed a rash of warts on my penis. I cycled as fast as I could to a doctor's surgery near the city centre. He told me it was nothing to worry about and gave me some cream in a tube with no label. When I came out, I saw a group of gypsy children clustered around my bike on the other side of the street. As I got closer, I realised it was a different bike. Mine had disappeared. 'Someone has stolen it,' I said. One boy raised a large spanner in the air, ready to hit me if I came any nearer. I walked away, thinking that if only I knew how to tell someone my story, I wouldn't feel so lonely.



Town Centre

A thin youth with tousled hair and a wispy beard was walking from car to car stuck in the traffic. He tapped on each window and held out his hand for money. One driver, perhaps to show off in front of the woman next to him, jumped out of his car. Shouting and shaking his fist, he ran after the beggar all the way up the crowded high street. I thought he would catch him, but the beggar, turning a corner, ducked unseen into an Italian restaurant. I found him sitting at a table there, looking at a menu. The tablecloth was piled high with coins he'd taken from his pockets. He invited me to join him.



Needs

I rented a room in an old house owned by an Italian family. They treated me like one of their own. Because one of the daughters was blind, none of the local men would consider her. Her father asked me if I would marry her. He gave me some pretty pebbles she had collected.

I put the pebbles into my pocket and took a stroll into town to think the matter over. On a street corner was a blind beggar. He wanted to know what the clinking sound was. I placed one of the pebbles in his palm. Caressing it, he asked if he could have the rest of them. That way, the sound of the pebbles rubbing together at night would keep him company when he slept on the street.



The Philosopher

During the last months of Nietzsche's life, I stayed next to him in his bed. He lay in his nightshirt, propped up on great pillows, gazing into space. I didn't know if he knew I was there or not. Yet sometimes he would turn towards me with his dark tearful eyes.
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