mother would say when I spoke
of America, Don’t you get carried away;
that place is not for a soul like yours.
it’ll be a beautiful, yet plastic rose.
I was, however, tired of those black-
and-white Italian movies she took me to,
those stone houses, the dust, the dirt,
the goats, and bony dogs, men sitting
along the church projection like a string
of crows, shoutings and misplaced revolts
that ended up in wind-swept cemeteries,
hungry kids that stood, barefoot, rheumy,
at the threshold, waving to their father
who with a piece of bread and cheese
wrapped in a soiled cloth was going away
to that promised land over the horizon.
I never saw any of those sun-furrowed men
again in an American movie, but it didn’t
matter much to me; I knew they all lived
in huge houses with a floor in the kitchen
that sparkled like virginal snow, large
windows overlooking the crystal blue sea,
the curtains breathing with a piny breeze,
while they, clean-shaven, scented, listened
to Lanza’s voice permeate their soul.
This is just a movie, my mother would say;
of those others, This reaches your nostrils.
she lived the neorealism of our own existence.
I, the past’s future. my wife was to be
Ava Gardner; true, I knew nothing of Frank
Sinatra, nor would I have cared. the movies
I watched were several years old, anyway.
You are where you are, she wrote, exiled
to pictures and mirrors in which you see
what you’d have to forget to remember.
Would you be able to smell your soul then?
I have a beautiful house, I would write back,
each time adding another cinemascopic detail,
with two bathrooms you can almost dance in;
no quarreling over the needs, no banging
on the door. at night I sit on the porch,
no rumbling sounds of tracks coming pertly
around the bend, slick clickings of cocking
levers to jar my ears or even memories. I
take a walk to the moonlit beach, unafraid
I am a moth already caught in a reticle.
All my letters to her ended the same way,
You must get well soon and come to see me;
yet, I prayed she would die before she asked
for some proof I didn’t live one of my movies.