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On Avoiding Stendhal Syndrome
Ellaraine Lockie


—A psychosomatic illness causing fainting, heart palpitations, confusion, hallucinations, amnesia or madness from sensory overload, 
especially in Florence museums, where about twelve cases occur every year

 It's easy to omit museums
When doppios and Perugino chocolates
slide down like liquid silk
And Italian words in coffee shops caress sound waves
into a massage that starts at the tip of your toes
Where born-again feet have been converted to baby soft 
by the finest leather sandals from a street stall 

The clop-clop of hooves hitting 
cobbled streets quickens the heartbeat
Each church bell chime climbs the ladder of your spine
And the strings on a street mandolin
tie you up in ancient bondage with Botticelli
Dante and Da Vinci

It's Michelangelo though 
responsible for your labored breathing
Because you've just run your hand up David's
marbled leg muscle in the piazza around the corner
And you can still feel the flush spreading 
from palm to pelvis

But you can't linger in the longing
because another kind of hunger leads you
by the nose to a next-door trattoria
To crostini, filet mignon with porcini and truffle sauce
parmigiano risotto, tiramisu and two glasses of Brunello
Over which you start talking to Puccini, Verdi and Rossini

Soon you are seeing with x-ray transparency
the tight Tuscan sunned bodies brushed with olive oil
bursting their Prada, Armani, Gucci and Fendi restraints
And with weakened knees and winged head
you try to rise to return to your hotel 
Or was it a hostel or a houseboat or a B & B 
Maybe that remodeled convent you considered . . .

From Stroking David's Leg (Foothills Publishing, 2009).
Used here with the author's permission.


Purchase a framed print of this poem.


Ellaraine Lockie lives in Sunnyvale, CA, where she is a full-time writer of poetry, nonfiction books and essays; a freelance writing workshop instructor; poetry editor for the lifestyle magazine, Lilipoh; and a frequent judge of literary contests. Her poetry is widely published and awarded and she is the author of 12 books, the most recent being Where the Meadow Lark Sings, a collection of poems about Montana which will be released in early 2015 and has already won the 2014 Enricle Publications Chapbook Award. Ellaraine's chapbook, Stroking David's Leg, received the Best Individual Collection Award for 2010 from Purple Patch magazine in England, and Red for the Funeral won the 2010 San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest. Ellaraine is also a professional papermaker who has worked with community projects in that capacity in South Africa and for various U. S. businesses. A video featuring her poetry, handmade papers, and handbound books can be seen here. Learn more about Ellaraine at


New comments are closed for now.
The more I read it the better it gets.
Posted 11/15/2014 01:02 AM
I've been to Tuscany, and you brought me back!
Posted 11/06/2014 11:16 AM
I love this.
Posted 11/05/2014 09:49 AM
Ha, the power of suggestion
Posted 11/05/2014 09:02 AM
sweet and tasty poem, Ellaraine!
Posted 11/05/2014 07:13 AM

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