They were told the streets were paved with gold.
I remember the pain and pride in my father’s eyes as he pounded
the kitchen table, his big fist like a hammer of God,
and my mother’s sighs in measured counterpoint,
singing a mournful Italian opera.
Verdi and his trumpets were my best friends then,
late at night snuggled in a four poster with my older sister,
miming Caruso and the Great Adelina.
My father’s tenor would match her heavenly soprano,
the ancient radio trembling from their symphonic ardor.
So long ago. The taste of ragu still caresses my tongue,
memorized forever from a big bowl of pasta, passed
with reverence around the rickety kitchen table.
Ellis Island was paradise to them, and after
the big war was over, my father never stopped
reminding us, forefinger raised to the sky,
a passionate glow in his blue Sicilian eyes:
“Mussolini e muorta. Viva L’America! ”
All the Old Timers are gone now;
gone the babushkas and the mandolins;
nevermore the tarantella or endless bocce games
played by the devoted.
Sadly lost are summertime block parties
redolent of Italy:
scratchy records playing Dino and Sinatra -
benevolent hymns to the glorious homeland,
ancient loudspeakers echoing
in mournful nostalgia.
Colorful Saint-Day Parades
through cobblestoned streets, precarious
at best, are passé too.
The Madonna has been laid to rest,
along with her son, never again
to rise on Easter morning;
they have broken the backs of those old timers
and, to the rest of us
Ellis Island is but a memory.
Alicia Patti's Other Poems
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