“Ritorno” by Gianna Patriarca

Gianna Patriarca


i have come back to the house
where i was born
but it is only the road i recognize
long, winding beneath the bridge
it is the smell of new grass
and the yellow mimosa in late March
that welcome me

the oak tree is gone
flattened into a driveway
the dull faded walls of a small house
have been revived by a bright melon
no more rosemary bushes
or grapevine

my cousin’s wife is polite
she offers me coffee
in porcelain cups

we sit beneath her new
covered veranda
insignificant chatter between us
she is in her fortieth year
and pregnant with her
third child

she allows me into the bedroom
where i was born
i walk in alone
to an old woman propped
in a single bed
a small television
keeping her company

i move towards her
my feet arguing each step
she stares at me
half knowing
i must be a relative
ciao zia


i tell her my name
she remembers i am her
dead brother’s child

she offers her hand
it is small
it has returned to the past
as all things do

ti trovo bene,
stai bene vero
si, si vedo che stai bene.

i agree
i am well

i offer her Canadian chocolates
caramel sweet
she has no teeth

i recoil in my ignorance
a little ashamed at my arrogance
my need to return to the past

this irrelevant room
where my life began
was once home

this room where my aunt
lies solitary and toothless
to go home

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets

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