Italian Women and Other Tragedies

By Gianna Patriarca

Italian Women

these are the women
who were born to give birth
they breathe only
leftover air
and speak only
when deeper voices
have fallen asleep
i have seen them bleed
in the dark
hiding the stains inside them
like sins
i have seen them wrap their souls
around their children
and serve their own hearts
in a meal they never


we don’t discuss the distance anymore
returning is now
the other dream
not American at all
not Canadian or Italian
it has lost its nationality.
in the sixties we came in swarms
like summer bees
smelling of something strange
wearing the last moist kiss
of our own sky.
we came with heavy trunks
empty pockets
and a dream.
i was one of them
tucked away below the sea line
on the bottom floor of a ship
that swelled and ached
for thirteen days
our bellies emptied into the Atlantic
until the ship finally vomited
on the shores of Halifax
there, where the arms and legs
of my doll fell apart into the sea
finding their way back over the waves.
my mother’s young heart wrapped around me
my sister crying for bread and mortadella.
we held on
two more nights on a stiff, cold train
headed for Toronto
where the open arms of a half forgotten man waited. 

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