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Contemporary Italian American Writing

Louisa Calio, Co-Director The Poets Piazza at Hofstra

Poems: Come Eat My Roses | Eritrea: My Ithaca| Cousin Rocky

Louisa Calio is a poet, writer, teacher, performer and traveler, founding member and first Executive Director of City Spirit Artists, Inc. (1976-1981) New Haven, Ct. Winner of The Conneticut Comission on the Arts Writers Award (1978), the Barbara Jones and Talisen Prizes for Poetry NEW VOICES (Trinidad & Tobago) & the Women in Leadership Award 1981 for her contributions to the Arts and service in the greater New Haven Community. She has a BA in Literature with Special honors in English from SUNY Albany, a Masters in Education from Temple and a life long dedication to the Arts and metaphysics. She is published internationally and authored four books of poetry, a novel and a play Venus Sanctuary to be produced this year at University of Iowa. She currently is a member of Italian American Writers Association, the American Italian Historical Association, and the American Italian Educators Association. She co-chaired the Poets and Writers Piazza at Hofstra for the last three years with its founder, Vito DeSimone, Former President of the Association of Italian American Educator.

Come Eat My Roses*


The door is opening
Come, watch me weave
I am mending as my grandmother used to
Join me with your tools
in this woman's labor,
Each new weave better teaches us the old.

Let us unravel the Soul
we are the insides of the stories told
The doubles: twins, the ancestral guides
meeting of extremes, not extreme inside
The meat of all the texts
we must eat to survive!

There will only be wars before the revolution
So, don't be afraid
Come take the passion fruit
ripe and ready
Come Eat My Roses
dive into the face of love
touch the blood of passion
as it drips from the cup.

*This is an excerpt from the poem entitled "Cassandra’s Visions" first published in In the Eye of Balance Paradiso Press, 1978. The roses refer to the ancient rites of Isis and Osiris.

Eritrea. My Ithaca*
(Excerpted from Journey to the Heart Waters, a modern day epic)

Fix your eyes on a thousand thousand stars
in the black dome of sky,
stars that do not shine, but spit hell fire.
Look on the sweet earth,
parting, exploding,
earth our fathers worked with sweat.
Look, but donít walk on it;
it may become your gravesite tonight!


See the flowers, rose petals,
only thorns are left.
This is my song today, yes.
Think of those you love dearly,
now think of losing them, multiply this 4 million times
and surely your loss will have touched mine.

My name is Eritrea, my name is South Africa, Somalia, Iraq,
my name is America, before and after the European...
I am an Eritrean, though I was told by your country I am to be Ethiopian.
I am sure you were not told of this.
The scars of many tears cover my face,
-- my struggle an endless battle cry.
Was my beauty the cause of this,
or the buried treasures within, that attracted so many of them,
Italian, Turk, Arab and Greek? Too many to name
have come and ravished me. Taking, taking so much greed!

How I would prefer to speak to you of our customs and dress.
The netsala women wear covers my head.
The table we set is seated with eight, --we share one plate.
Our land is also shared - divided by lot.
We are many kinds of people and speak many languages.
How I long to tell you of our cool highlands;
our capital--Asmara- as it was...
our desert, touched by the Red Sea, the sea that led Moses to freedom,
shall see freedom in me,
Red, red now with the blood of my children.

Wars are interminable separations.
My children are all refugees or dead.
Who will pay this blood debt?
We are still fighting the wars of possession:
my gods, your gods, my land, your land, my race, your race.
We remain locked in the jaws of separation;
each regretful act justified by past dreadful deeds
ever recreating the patterns of pain.


*A portion of this poem first appeared in Voices for Peace 1984 and The New Voices 1984 winning the Barbara Jones Prize for Poetry.

Cousin Rocky (In memory of Rocco Marchesani)


First cousin and our First boy, all innocence, filled with hope and wonder,
beautific boy, good boy with dark, lush wavy hair and big brown eyes
filled with thick lashes that stared at me like an East Indian godís
from the photo I cherish when you were 5
and patiently sat beside me on Grandpa's lap and
I on Grandma's lap, just christened and looking other-worldly in a long white gown, my hands spread wide open as if giving some benediction;
first girl Grandchild who loved you so. My Hero, big boy, idol
a sibling nearly, when you lived beside me
and taught me how to play and love the Brooklyn way,
harsh and wild we were,
when I hit a ball with a stick, just like a boy youíd say
even when the other boys made fun of you
You'd let me play! in those amazing Brooklyn days,
"Crooklyn" like the Spike Lee phrase, with its circuitous ways.
I remember you running all the way to Buscemi's
for those succulent Italian ices, authentically made
in every flavor, so yummy at the height of a blistering summer;
melting in the heat we raced to our heart's desire,
playing all day at the beach or under an open hydrant
dodging the forceful water spray.

We played and we played,
and we ate and we ate, laughed and cried
in our cowboy and cowgirl clothes and other magic shows.
I enjoyed you so, until you moved away from Avenue U to Avenue Y!
Why, why? I asked my mother, Rose
who knew how I much I missed you.

Then we all moved from Brooklyn
and everything changed. Family fractured far and wide;
we only glimpsed each another through time.
Suddenly you were a handsome young man
and I a shy 13. Then a college girl in Albany
and you already a businessman soon to marry.
I still have the photos we took on that joyful occasion
when you wed Judy we danced all day into night.
Later you had two beautiful sons: Jeffrey and Brian!

Like me, you were most at home by the Sea.
We shared the memories and cherished those meetings,
Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway,
Jones Beach, the Jersey Shore, Dominic's Farm
our extended family gatherings in summer.
You moved to a sea town, Long Beach and I to a tropical island,
but something of Brooklyn has always remained.

The last time we met you had spoken of Rome,
our ancestral ties; your heart already broken, Judy ill
again we met not far from the seaside.
Then so swiftly you left
joining Judy, Uncle Joe, Grandmas and Grandpas, Uncles and Aunts
at the table of light
partaking of the true nourishment
in the Eternal city.

 

Copyright ©2005 by Louisa Calio. All rights reserved.

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