their mute, framed faces staring down at me:
Men in black cassocks
showing me where my gene pool ended
in that small corner of the Old World –
scattered, sterile seeds,
lost in cavernous, dark seminaries.
An ice box in the corner,
drip pan beneath, sparse provisions within.
All the rest victims of the hot room with
its thick, drawn drapery.
Hard cheeses, sour auras redolent when you’re near,
wrapped in cheesecloth,
aging in the open air;
flagons of wine
and a green viscous oil that it would take years
for my American palate to love.
My grandparents would mutter
in their strange and fluid tongue
and urge me to mangia.
I was too thin–“Fagiole!”
The salad of crisp green--
cool, ignoring the August day–
greens and orange slices.
My little face cries silently at the first taste--
why did they douse it like that?
I liked olives–if they were pitted...
and dyed black, and swimming in a can
under murky, innocuous water.
But this green oil was from no olive I knew.
And with the black pepper, too,
the oranges were spoiled for me.
Bitter and sweet, bitter and sweet.
Why did the old people mix bitter with life’s joys?
I would not mangia,
me, with taste buds
not yet born into the flavors of my people.