I wite, write, write about you, and us,
and early memories from long before our time, and
snow, and all this writing seems to age me. A pity.
I want to be young. I want my mother to
comb my hair the way she did when I was four,
making me a princess though we lived in poverty.
As I got older, I rebelled against the pride she took in my hair
(“capelli ricch’,” my grandmother would comment, and
“propria Napuletan’,” nodding as if in obeisance to both Naples
and my hair.) It hurt as Mother combed out the knots, the kinks, and
I screamed until my father called out from his shop, “Rose!
Stop hurting the child!” Soon, I refused to let her comb it anymore.
Oh Mother! Comb my hair today!
Make me young and rich and beautiful!
Yes, I was a princess in the dress made from scratch by my mother;
my hair, my diadem. Though poor, we feasted, always the bottle of
muscatel at hand. We chuckled at the way Grandmother drank her wine
camouflaged in a coffee cup, we acted like we didn’t know her secret.
Enjoyed the serendipity of tiny portions Daddy poured for us.
When he drank, Mother would sigh, “In vino veritas,” but she never drank,
not even a drop on holidays, when even we young ones clicked glasses.
“Ah salut!” The response of “Prosite!” sounded like “Brust!” the way we said it.
We chuckled, laughed, got giddy on our nips of wine
under my father’s strict but soft brown eyes,
my mother’s sober, wintry blue ones.
There was a section of my father’s shop that smelled of ice.
A floor vent meant for heat sent cold instead, sleet
raining upward from where blessed heat should come,
close to his long-dead father’s roll-top desk where spirits
dwelled in hidden crevices. Many, many years have passed since I felt
that utter coldness on our coldest days, but when I hear Prokofiev
I see and smell that ice again. How can it be so real, this nonexistent ice
that never lived? Why do I so welcome it? And what has this to do with you,
its utter opposite? It’s just another thing I love,
beloved ice in a beloved space,
as I love you.
You think my love poems torture you? They torture me!
The way new poems now come to me so fast and fierce
on otherwise harmonic days makes me insane.
I say “No more!” and walking to my piano, touch its keys which feel
like silk beneath my touch. Bach brings me back to sanity, and I vow
to never write another poem, when suddenly I feel the falseness
of that notion, on coming to a phrase that voices love.
And then I know: it’s music, and poetry of poets I love, and love itself,
and love of you, that guides my pen, my life, my every deed, and I accept
with sane and happy mind the same way as you and I accept each other.
You have the elements of not just one, but every
man I’ve ever loved or who was meaningful to me.
Because of this, you’re many faceted, more so than
any one of them. When you say my poems are fantasy,
you’re like another who, with distant look
said all life’s a dream. Yesterday’s a dream, this moment
brief reality, too soon returning to the realm of dream.
Or dream, or real: What matters?
Come to me, make reality anew
for tomorrow’s dreaming,
my love, my truth, my never fantasy.
I’d sigh. My father’d say, “Why do you sigh, young girl?”
He never called me that unless I sighed; he usually called me
my Italian name, joined with bellela. But when I sighed, I was
“young girl,” and in English. Now I’m getting old, no longer sigh but
giggle, laugh wholeheartedly. And then I recall the sighs of that young girl,
and think my father who knew everything didn’t know that springtime’s
for sighing; winter, joviality. Winter, with its brisk and lightening temperatures,
winter with inspiring snows and lively ice, strong December sun,
and indoor hearths of everything defining home. Winter, with its gift of new
mature love that’s not for sighing, but for happiness. Winter that’s for
gratitude for all that’s passed before, has come again.