AN AMERICAN JOURNEY

My grandfather Antonio
left Apulia, Italy
for New York in 1923
pursuing not his dreams
but the man who murdered his deaf-mute father,
promising his mother he would avenge
her husband’s death
and return with honor,
his vendetta fulfilled.

When the blood is roused
such vows are quickly made,
but when the head cools
they are abruptly broken
especially in Manhattan where a man
who does not want to be found
can hide like a leaf in summer.

Antonio found a room on the Lower East Side,
went to work selling perfumes door-to-door,
the wrong sort of job if you’re sniffing out
the man who murdered your father,
but perfect for meeting a woman.
She was a beauty
from a small village near his own,
a woman such as the one in Fellini’s Amarcord
who walks the earth like a goddess.

From then on, my grandfather’s wife
occupied the foreground of his life.
He worked hard to make her rich.
Prosperity came to them,
the next generation was born,
and the old world withered like a dying olive tree.
But not for good.

Decades later, weakened by cancer,
my grandfather was sitting on a park bench
in Hartford, Connecticut when a man
in a wheelchair stopped under a nearby tree.
With him were two male attendants.
Antonio watched them warily
until he was sure it was the man
who murdered his father, stricken now
with paralysis. The two men with him
both deaf-mutes, appeared to be his sons,
and they were having an argument in sign language.

Asking his parents for forgiveness,
Antonio walked quietly away
His American journey
was finally over,
but it was much too late
to go home.