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Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters by Janet Mason (Bella Books April 2012) is now available -- click here for more info

check out Janet Mason's author blog read Janet Mason's latest piece in The Huffington Post --Chick-fil-A: What Would Gandhi Do If He Were Gay? ('s) featured writer:
Rosemary Cappello -- poet and artist

click here for more poems by Rosemary Cappello

Rosemary is the editor and publisher of Philadelphia Poets and her poetry appears in the current issueof Iconoclast, and also in Avanti Popolo: Italian American Writers Sail Beyond Columbus, edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca and James Tracy. click here to read Rosemary's readings/appearances bio





self portrait without makeup


Poems by Rosemary Cappello

Rosemary Cappello -- on "The Lost Earring"

Actually, Elise, the woman who lost her earring, did leave many
relatives behind in Paris, and told me that her grandmother actually ran
after the vehicle she was driving away in, waving a handkerchief, and that
was the last she saw of her. But somehow I just couldn't write that into
the poem, and the reader will just have to surmise that indeed Elise did
leave her grandmother in Paris, and many relatives who died, later, in the
holocaust. The picture in the filigree frame is symbolic of them.

Elise at first went to Switzerland, met her husband and married, and then
they had to escape from there under terrible circumstances. While escaping,
she suffered a miscarriage with such complications that she could never have
children after that. She has lived to a ripe old age, continues to get
around pretty well and visits relatives in Israel and France regularly.
Often, they visit her also, and I meet them when they do so.

She continues to dress like a fashion plate; the imprint of her native city
is upon her. She is a true Parisienne.

Thinking about how she is a survivor, it seems that we all, in one way or
another, are survivors.


My grandmother was the shortest person
in our family, except for me.
My ambition was to be bigger than she was.
How proud I was when that day arrived. I stood
next to her and Ecco! I was a hair taller.
When my grandmother sat on her favorite chair
in the living room, she placed one hand atop the other
on her lap.

I would compare our hands. Hers were wrinkled,
scarce on flesh, with long fingers. Born
in the 19th Century, hers were hard working Southern
Italian hands; mine, modern convenience American.
Her hands had dug into the mine of life. They added
inches to her height. Gave her stature. Though she had
the hands for it, she wasn't a pianist
in Italy, she had no time for music. She oversaw
truck farmers. My father said she paid the workers
from a purse dangling from her side.
In this country, he saw to it that she always had money
in her pocket. Here, we were her workers. She paid me for
ironing her aprons, $1.00 each. A good wage for those days.

As she handed me the money, she said, "Ah! Che bella fatica!"
She taught me to love work. Her hands and mine: there's
no comparison. But from her I learned to appreciate them both.

From her I learned to love all workers' hands.


Rosemary Cappello

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One pearl close to the earlobe
three others dangling from
separate silver chains
earrings delicate and dear
her husband gave her.

He's dead now; died in her arms after
speaking warmly to her in her language.
She lost an earring. And doesn't care.
If it were I, I'd be sick! I said.

She told me, then, why a
lost earring doesn't faze her.
About how she left Paris
the day her mother heard the news that
Jews had to register.
Her mother grabbed her; said
"We have to leave at once!"
She paused to pack her favorite things.
"No time to take anything!"
Not the stylish coats and dresses
her mother made for her.
Not even the picture of her grandmother
in the silver filigree frame.
They left at once, she, almost grown but still
young enough to turn back and pause, asking,
"Why must we leave everything behind?" Her mother
running back to grab her by the arm, saying
"Come! Now! We haven't time!"

Still turning back, she regrets abandoning
her grandmother's picture.
I try to be consoling, say, "You have it in your memory."
But her memory is fading, she sighs.

What's a lost earring to her?

Rosemary Cappello




Our family didn't have much money.
That meant no surprises
among our Christmas gifts.
The key word was "Practical"
especially where my grandmother was concerned.
Every year, she gave me the same gift:
six pairs of briefs. White.
Every year. The same plain, white panties
from Mr. Carlitz's dry goods store on West Chester Pike.

I unwrapped the box, thanked her, and
as was our custom, kissed her hand. She smiled
and nodded her acceptance of my gratitude
for the gift I hated.
It surprised me, then, when
the first Christmas after she died,
I found I actually missed
my grandmother's Christmas gift.
I missed it even more when I
had to go out and buy the annual supply of
underwear myself. My grandmother was gone.

Mr. Carlitz and his store were gone. I was even
gone, not living in that neighborhood anymore.
I had to start becoming practical myself.


Rosemary Cappello