GIUSEPPE THE SHOE-MAKER
Among the first Diaspora, he escaped
the great earthquake of 1905 by two years,
sailing for New York on the Calabria,
never to see his homeland again.
Yet his eyes held the sparkle
of the Tyrrhenian tighter than he held on
to his faith in the Virgin and her immaculate Son.
From the dingy bustle of Hester Street
with its vendors and horse carts
and dreams of the New World
he found his way to the cabbage farms
of Western New York where he fell in love
with the handsome Vincenza,
fresh from Palermo.
Sixty years and four children later—
two with families of their own
and two in the ground—
Giuseppe, a simple shoe-maker,
who never learned English, stood
banging his head against the wall, cursing God
and the Virgin in his native tongue,
as Vincenza's body lay in the dining room
dressed in lace and wood.
Every time my mother tells this story
about her grandfather, I can't help but wonder
if this is what it all comes down to.
Do we end up just banging our heads, begging
for one more moment, just one more moment
before we close our eyes to everything?
Is there anything sadder than a trumpet crying in the rain,
a nighttime beach scene in a Fellini movie,
or the empty place at the table
where you used to demand your eggs
cooked just like Denny's?
After lunch, with no one to argue with,
I take a long walk, resting only to watch
two dogs go at it on Jefferson.
It reminds me of that week we spent in the Poconos,
trying every position in the Kama Sutra.
At home I open a can of Schlitz,
sit down in front of the six o'clock news.
After seeing the latest horrors
and devastations, I feel a little better, knowing
that even without you, I'm not so all alone.