ITALIAN WORDS (A SESTINA)

My grandparents’ home was filled with the music of Italian words,
syllables that sounded like the cantata of love,
and when I heard them as a boy I felt a hunger,
a stirring in my divided soul for something whole,
something I could not get in this land of plenty — my heritage,
rooted in Europe where I intuited the circle would close.

My parents, born in America, wanted to close
the book on Italy. English not Italian words
were used with the children, whose heritage
should be American. They did this out of love.
We had a pretty good life on the whole.
My Depression-raised parents would allow no hunger

to stalk our home. But another persistent hunger
awoke in my heart, and growing up I learned to close
the wound with games, books, movies; then the whole
cultural revolution of the sixties gave me the words
I needed to express the changes taking place in me. Love
was everywhere, and with college came a new heritage

of an intellectual kind, but this was not the only heritage
I was seeking. I woke up feeling a restlessness, a hunger
for travel. The chanting in the streets proclaimed, “Make love
not war,” and on the evening news death was too close
for comfort. I longed to hear those Italian words
again, so I flew to Rome and traveled the whole

peninsula for a summer hoping to be made whole.
With ears open and senses alive I drank in my heritage,
yet amidst the paint and marble, I could never get enough words,
always more words, pouring into me. Then a different hunger
struck me at a hotel in Rome. As the circle was about to close
it broke open suddenly at a point where the love

was weakest. It threw me into a tailspin, this need for love,
this yearning for family, without whom I’d never be whole.
So in mid-August, I came back to be close
to the ones who are a part of my heritage.
Now the years have passed, I’ve married, but still a hunger
possesses me at times, one that cannot be told in words.

My family and I are close, we share a heritage,
there is love and something close to being whole
but the old hunger persists when I hear the music of Italian words.