By Michael De Rosa

Then No More

I watched my 
Mother 
Mother-in-Law 
And wife of fifty years 

Take their last breaths 

There were no last words 

As they left us 

Struggling  

To breathe until the end 

Each taking longer and longer 

We held ours 

Waiting hoping for the next 

Then no more 

Blood stopped 

The color of their skin 

Gone 

A kiss 

Then no more

Ten Thousand Generations

You ask me where I’m from 
Meaning are you one of us 
Or one of them 
Should you greet me with an open-hand 
Or a clenched fist 

I am one strand 
Of the tapestry of humankind  
Created by 
Ten thousand generations 

I claim  
Slaves and Slaveholders 
Conquered and Conquerors 
Persecuted and Persecutors 
The Innocent and the Guilty 
Believers of all the holy names and Unbelievers 
Neanderthals and Denisovans 
And yes you  
As kin 
I am the fruit of ten thousand generations 

My Father

Growing up, what I knew of my father could fit on a 3X5 index card. 
I knew his birthday but thought he was born in Bari, Italy. 
Not Barille in the province of Potenza. 
Now I know the house where he was born,  
and the name of the doctor who delivered him. 
My father wanted to name me Giuseppe Garibaldi.  
I did not know that was the name of his father.  
Taken from his mother (judged unfit), raised by an aunt. 
Did he ever know his birth mother? 
He came to the US with an eighth-grade education. 
Spoke and read three languages. 
But never said how he learned Spanish. 
He came to live with relatives in our neighborhood, 
but never mentioned their names. 
Filled out alien registration forms. 
After over 50-years in the US, he was still not a citizen. 
Why? 
We were his second family. 
By the 1920 census, he had three children from his first marriage. 
I only knew of two. 
An older man, always in a suit, would come visit my father. 
A son my mother would say, looking for money. 
He was estranged from his family. 
Or was he? 
What about grandchildren? 
Did he love and spoil them as he did us? 
My father never went to Christmas dinners at an aunt’s house. 
Where did he go during Christmas? 

Grammar of Grief

For fifty years it was we 
Moving thru life together 
Now it is just I 

Slowly you stayed behind 
As I went forward 
Finally painfully 
Only I  
You not there 
To hold my hand 

You were my 
Past 
Present 
Future 
Is there a tense for forever present 

We 
Our 
My 
And now was or were 
Who knew there was a grammar of grief 
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