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
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