Nonno came to start a new life America.
How lucky I am that Nonna agreed to stay.
In the dank cellar on Oak Avenue,
Regina shovels coal into the firebox.
Outside, the hens squawk about their fate.
She misses the hill town in Piemonte,
where the earth drives you mad with the scent of growing things.
Here, there is bread to bake and children to bear,
the ache in the small of her back
indifferent to her desire
for purses of gnocchi and fresh butter.
Here there are no clusters of purple grapes
ripening under an apricot sky,
just grey sheets to soak
in a claw-footed tub
and a brown metal bed that lists.
She used to feast on music and laughter,
stories, tart and sweet,
but those days are done
and she is swallowed up
by black stockings, rolled down to just below her knees,
and shapeless dresses skirting hard-looking calves.
With a ragged moppeen,
she scrubs away regrets,
kneels on yellowed linoleum squares
in a house grown smaller in size.
She fingers the ticket in her pocket.
Will he remember the feel of her cheekbones,
the line of her hip under his hand?
She packs the one smiling photograph of them.
That and the white silk dress on a wire hanger.