In honor of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I’d like to share my poem To Learn. This poem was originally published in the anthology The Poetry of Place: North Jersey in Poetry by The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College, N.J., in 2008. The poem draws from stories my great Aunt Dora shared with me about her parents who were born in Sala Consilina, a town in southern Italy. If you are interested in Italian and Italian-American culture, language and food, you might enjoy my blog Fare La Scarpetta.
Monday through Saturday,
Antonio mapped Newark’s streets collecting garbage.
Sundays, Antonio pulled his carriage to one side, tied up his horse,
greeted Carmela’s uncle;
did Antonio think of his late wife?
Lemonade balanced on wide-armed
wooden chair on the grass,
Carmela’s young face, veiled by kitchen curtains,
studied her husband to be,
invented his twenty-five years of memories.
He called on her weekly.
Carmela was asked to marry
or return to Italy.
In three working years, she’d repaid the cost of her journey.
She crossed herself, said
one day she’d have the dollars to see her mother again.
Instead, a telegram arrived years later with a black border.
Carmela and Antonio did not speak
until it was agreed they would marry.
Years later, Carmela rinsed dishes,
told her daughter the story.
But ma, didn’t you love Pa?
Yes, but I had to learn.