ACTS OF KINDNESS
You forgot how to eat and breathe at the same time
Every act of kindness done to you is painful and a reminder of absence
That wound made
of orange bedsheets and a 38-year-old worn-out mattress
of tv on all night long
Don’t be gentle even if that’s what the books and the therapists say
The university psychologist is training you to assist your students and people around you who are suicidal
“I don’t want to die but I want to be with her so much”
To the olive tree with the nose-shaped bark, “Are you gonna die too?”
She was heartbroken every day
Several times a day
“I forgive you” – who the fuck said that?
Heartbreak for all the people who died
All the chemos and the funerals
And the vomiting on the purple carpet in the bathroom and the bad breath
Of coma the yellow teeth
Of words non said the non-last-words
Because some don’t know they’re gonna die
Or their spouses can’t imagine
Or their kids don’t believe it
Or their aging parents are not told
“Teach us,” her students asked, “Teach us how to overcome homesickness”
How you die:
By breaking your head waking up every night at 3am on the couch after too much chocolate
By crashing on the floor on the balcony staring at the moon right before sunrise, falling down hard on
your back, and breaking vases at your guest’s house overlooking the cupole of Rome, where you’re not
from but it’s the closest you can get
By poisoning yourself with scars
How you stay alive:
By holding hands and crying with your dead grandmother’s friend, the woman who, within the past few weeks, lost her husband of old age and her son of an accident at work in the fields
By visiting cemeteries and ghosts on two continents, sun light warm on the tombs, stones, oranges,
By one week in November running down the hill, playing with the dead
Marina Romani (PhD, UC Berkeley) is a queer performer of Western classical music and Afro-Puerto Rican music, as well as a film and music researcher, educator, and translator. She holds academic and advising positions at UC Berkeley: she is a lecturer in the Department of Italian Studies and an academic specialist at the Berkeley International Study Program within the Department of Sociology. She is also a music and culture critic, and serves as a contributing writer for the San Francisco Opera. She has presented her original research in Europe and in the US (Yale, NYU, UCLA, USC, King’s College London, among others). As a member of performance and education ensemble Aguacero and of son jarocho group DíaPa’Son, Marina has performed extensively as a solo singer and instrumentalist at La Peña Cultural Center, CubaCaribe, Brava Theater, Stanford University, Dance Mission Theater, among others. A native of a tiny rural village in Abruzzo, Italy, Marina resides between the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern Europe.
For more information, visit her website.
Marina Romani’s head shot by Eli Jacobs Fantauzzi.
Article cover image: painting by Hassan Vahedi.