À la Sicilienne

My father cuts hair at Cinema Paradiso.
I see him in barbershop mirrors
Like time is repeated on eternity’s reel.

My cousin owns a purgatorial liquor store.
As it was on earth, wine and rapture.
As it will be at rebirth, wine and rapture.

My grandfather shivers like a boy
Even though he’s crossing a lava pit:
Empedocles between love and the void.

My aunt knits ground snail covers
Fit for the gardens of an earthly nirvana
And cradles of dead, infant, elder brothers.

My mother is like a Greek statue
Who gave birth to music in stone,
The triumph of death in the mirror of bone.

Santa Rosalia

Monte Pellegrino in sea fog.
The streets of the city in shrouds.
Fierce grief and black wings
From hidden balconies.

Santa Rosalia! Santuzza!

A village girl has died!
Santa Rosalia! A girl like you!
She dreamt of black grapes.
She heard the howl of a sick dog.

Santa Rosalia! Santuzza!

Giuseppina has died!
They are washing her feet.
She wears a coral necklace
And a red ribbon in her hair.

Santa Rosalia! Santuzza!

The guests are throwing corn
And carrying trays of food.
Giuseppina! Who is waiting
For you in the casa nuova?
Candles by the bed,
Serenading from the street.

Santa Rosalia! Santuzza!

The almonds are bitter
In the mouth of the groom.
He heard the bell and the clock
Of the church chime together
And a voice whispered: “It is she.”

Santa Rosalia! Santuzza!

The groom has gone to the mountains
With a torch of orange blossoms.
He cannot mourn.
He has gone to the mountain.

Santa Rosalia! Santuzza!

The mother of the bride
Is tearing out her hair.
Giuseppina is sleeping.
They have fed her honey
But she will not awaken.
They have brought her lilies;
She will not awaken.

Santa Rosalia! Santuzza!
A girl from the village has died!

The Fig Tree

                        for my parents

In autumn they tie the bare branches into loops,
Then build a shelter with wood and tarps–

The tree is my father’s island, the home he never left,
Every leaf is a handshake with his past.

The tree is my mother’s island, the green dress of her youth—
Ripe purple fruit warm as the first kiss on her mouth.

All winter they fill baskets with shadows of a greener time.
They’ll carry in sleep the baskets to their island.

Symposia Above Sea Level

My cousins cautioned me about the red wine,
Counseled me on being too at ease
On ancestral land. Said lush vineyards grow
On Etna’s slopes, enriched by lava flows
And strange vapors steaming into the grapes
Produce a wine from the childhood of the world.

Whatever philosophy we were spewing
That I, drinking this, heard chaos talk,
Saw the sea burning in the crater of the sun,
Saw the mountain falling, space mounting;
Felt the wine venting, the winds of forgetting
Flying in the wine-dark sea of my mind–
I staggered on the cliff-side terrace—

Archimedes Theocritus Empedocles I slurred
The vertigo of history letting go,
Smelling sulfur, even there among clouds.

Snail Recipe

As a boy I dreamt snails,
Dreamt my mother was mother of snails
Who nursed them with milk and honey,
Cooked pastina, sage and basil,
To cleanse and sweeten the flesh.
I dreamt snails and cringed.
At dinner, I slowly picked snails from their shells,
Savoring dark morsels, eating my dream.

Terrace Garden, Lampedusa House

Tigris or Babylon or well-watered Eden,
Flowers tumbled over balustrades,
Leopard lilies sprang to the pads of their feet,
Hibiscus blossoms flared in damp sea air,
Miniature lemons orbit a space
In perception for the beauty of the singular
And the shadows of a brightening dusk.
From this terrace you can study the stars,
You can contemplate a meaning
In the shifting mirror of night’s tides.
The conjunction of the constellations
Culminates in a double star of vision:
Everything that changes stays the same—
The flower of the heavens has but one eye.