Recent original poetry, all about family memories, first posted on my blog — Bob Varettoni, 11/7/22.
Elegy in a Living Room
I lie alone in my boyhood home,
on a faux-leather sofa,
a curiosity from the 1970s
my mother won’t surrender.
The suburbs are Sunday-silent.
I shut my eyes and begin to float…
Up a lazy river by the old mill run,
the stardust of a river in the noon day sun.
A worm burrows into my head.
My father’s favorite song lingers in a dream,
as I nestle in the worn cradle of the armrest
where he drew his final breath.
When I was a teen,
my uncle led me up stone steps of a forbidden tower
to a parapet, with a panoramic view of St. Peter’s Square.
We were trespassing, and I was afraid of heights.
I told him I preferred to see the world with my feet on the ground:
Looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling,
Seeing my grandmother feed pigeons in the piazza,
Seeing the cool smooth marble of the Pieta inches from my eyes.
When I was a boy, I had seen Mary’s young face from afar,
behind bullet-proof, ceiling-to-floor plexiglass
on a dimly-lit moving sidewalk,
jostled by tourists at the World’s Fair.
As a teen, free from my Roman chaperones,
I was Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.
I was the only person in the world viewing, in a stolen moment,
what Michelangelo had carved from a single stone.
In such dizzying proximity to perfection,
I understood the desire to destroy it.
And yet I have lived my life as an innocent man,
never seeking to avenge my younger self.
I am Zacchaeus, and this page is where I hide.
This piece of paper.
I own a prayer book
that reminds me of Nonna,
the way she would recite from her hymnal
while rocking in her front-porch chair.
She whispered a string of sibilant “s”-s,
audible only to young boys and house cats.
The words themselves were beyond my reach
as my grandmother conspired with God.
So I’ve saved this book,
but I’ve never opened it.
Instead, I hold it aloft and pretend I am young,
blowing seeds off a dandelion.
Lips pursed, facing the sun,
I watch particles of dust rise
from the dead and float to the heavens,