Vinni Marie D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.


Text Box:

by Vinni Marie D'Ambrosio, in Voices in Italian Americana

The Godspeed

On All Souls' Day, a visit to the family grave


Day of the Dead. An ordinary

gathering of generations

as though it were Sunday

at the grandfather's house.

The long parlor. The crowd

of faces stiffly floating

on the marble sea of

the mantelpiece. Under a shawl

of shadows, the piano.

And there, in a bowl

emitting almond perfume,

the sculpted marzipans.


The grandfather had earlier taken

a few of the painted fruits

to the cemetery

and in a sharp wind

made love's covenant

of apricots and peaches

with his wife, dead in 1924,

his small boy, in 1916,

his daughters, in 1921, '22, '23 -

on their headstone,

carved above the tumble

of gray lilies and numerals,

a woman's frozen gaze.


At home, for his favorite


the eldest, an undivined gift

waits in the dining room.

The idea, gracing

his narrow house for days,

came from an American movie -

Loretta Young leaning forward

from the wall's glitter

into the world's real darkness,



hands toward the audience,

seeming to resemble

his grown son's grown girl.

Her asking look - come una santa -

unfurled his generosity

like the parasols in memory

that sheltered maidens

from sun or rain.


The co-star - un bel ragazzo -

offered her a cigarette,

and spun out sweet promises

in a della Robbian wreathe

of smoke.


In the morning,

the grandfather had laid out

the gift,

first on the tablecloth,

then in the center

of the granddaughter's empty plate -

a tasty, smoky, beautiful

pack of Old Golds -

as the sign he approved her modern

habit and that her modesty

was inviolable,

as an example to teach

the gentleness of family

and the contentment

mercy makes possible,

and as his concession to her -

she is just nineteen.


Her cousins brush by

the great table,

hypnotized by the grandfather's



On the dish,

in the shaft of cold light

entering from the backyard,

the cellophane wrapping is

a little bonfire.


But the granddaughter

(yet unblessed by

his Godspeed)

stands at the front parlor window

gazing at prophecy.

The gray air whitens,

curls, beckons - as wings upon wings

join in a November flight.

Copyright © 2008 by Vinni Marie D'Ambrosio

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