Naples, the port
A city of side streets
Where even the February sun is ready
To betray you for a lira.
Shouts: Saluti a tutti, ti raccomando !
The smell of diesel oil, rotting fish, sea air
A thousand years old
Again another journey to a New World
My father and before him his father
Sailed from Malta across the pale-blue Mediterranean to Calabria
Woven mats, brass bottom pots wrapped under blankets
A sack to trade for an unknown future.
The Iphigenia’s hull peels and waits
A dull whistle
The crowd moves back ropes are tossed
More shouts: bella mia non piangere
The ship’s movements feel like the lowering of a casket
Later in a dream
Your brother runs waving along the edge of the dock
Over and over again in the morning sun.
Mediterranean dolphins follow the ship
A woman looks at them and cries daily
Men smoke on the deck
The tobacco for a moment brings back
Small piazzas in the cool evening
Worn edged cards after Sunday mass
A small glass of red wine half empty after dinner
Your life now divided
Before and after the journey.
My aunt is holding a child and then stretches her arms towards the sun
To my mother it appears like an offering
To God for safe passage
Few on board have been able to keep down food
The sea offers instead a steady rhythm and oblivion
As far as the horizon
There is no revelation
The child throws a toy ball at the dolphins below
They leap toward the sun
Halifax, February 22, 1955
What she bought:
One gold and green bed cover with fringes on the edges,12 cotton diapers,
1 grey-blue suit for a child of 16 months, 2 dresses, 1 spring blouse, 4 bras,
1 pair of sandals, 2 sweaters-one grey, one black, 4 towels, 2 tins of olive oil six liters each, 2 round pieces of cheese, 1 small bundle of dried sausages, a small pack of letters with no stamps, the first 10 lines of Dante’s Inferno, a bit of Math, an ability to cook and bake, the laughter of a long line of peasants, a fear of open water.
The day my voice arrived
Winter was a dog gnawing on an old bone
Under a monotonous grey sky
There was no coming together of social forces
The thermometer did not drop
Airports were not silent
A small cult following did not descend
To read my poetry
My ludic secrets went unexposed
My fear of poetry did not end
Stars still remained in the night sky
In the shape of pin-wheels and broken kites
Day turned to night in the pink and gold March sky
Someone I once knew in a bar
Whispered “ heard he became a poet.”
Morning After You
Sunlight slants through the windows
Stripped shadows of the Venetian curtain
On the gold brown stone floor
Contentment is a solitary room
A quiet for gotten train station not far from here
Near a vast field
Where the sun shines in uneven patches on the sea
Where a seagull glides above the lemon trees
Drifts up with the sudden drafts
Watches over the invisible generosity of the world.
This is the morning after you left the house
Orange scent till on my fingers from the cut slices
You made for me
Our daughter asleep
Following the path between the wide cactus and stunted scrub
I walk towards the ancient Calabrian shore
Hear the sea sigh, slip between the rocks
Spread across the white sand
Praise an ordinary new day with you in the world.
Carmelo Militano is an award winning poet & writer. He won the F.G. Bressani award for poetry in 2004 for his chapbook Ariadne’s Thread. His poetry includes the collections Morning After You and The Stone Mason’s Notebook. Militano’s novel Sebastiano’s Vinewas short-listed for the Margaret Laurence fiction prize and his non-fiction work The Fate of Olives was also short-listed. His reviews, essays, and literary interviews have appeared in journals across Canada. Militano currently hosts and produces the P.I. New Poetry show, CKUW 95.9 FM, University of Winnipeg. Lost Aria is his fifth book.
Cover image: Photo by Melina Piccolo.