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Contemporary Italian American Writing

Mary Giaimo: Three Poems

For Jessica, between Continents |
Morning After Scotch | Sam's Sonnet

Mary GiaimoMary Giaimo is a graduate student in the poetry program at City College of New York. She teaches poetry workshops in the public schools through Teachers & Writers Collaborative, has published poetry in The Naples Review, and is also a freelance editor. She lived in Florence, Italy, for four years, where she was a creative writing teacher and a travel writer for Vista magazine. Mary has given readings for The Italian American Writers Association at New York University, at Cafe Sha Sha, and for other reading series around Manhattan.

She is an assistant editor for Italian American Writers.com.

For Jessica, between Continents


This pear is spun
of heat of your in-laws’ bakery
and the ocher of its Renaissance street
the odor of bread rising,
your father-in-law’s sweating cheeks
and the bile
that rings the iris of his hazel eyes.


A pear like this you split
into its two guitar halves
white flesh plucked
white flesh we took
with shavings of parmigiano
white fingers of your pale Tuscan husband
strumming the strings of a bigmountaindrugs review.
You carried us all captive to America, he thinks.
La donna sempre commanda, he said once to me.


Here you still paint the old way
in tempera made with eggs
in oils and pine spirits
linen canvas primed in rabbit-skin glue
and whitewashed with floury gesso


while at the ovens in Florence your in-laws
wade through flour and heroin,
their boy Tiziano locked up in rehab.


The smell of a pear
was in the dragon faces of pale irises
growing wild along the empty lane in Greve,
that late-spring day you taught country mothers
and their kids to draw,
and I was loose on the road alone.
In an empty field I lay down,
pulled my shirt off to feel some kind of kiss
on my breasts, tall grass
and sun, insect legs and wind.
Waking, I rolled over to find a farmhand watching me,
a stone’s throw off,
black hair coiling close to his head,
Bacchus sweating at work
patiently coiling the vines
to stakes driven into the breast of the earth.
He turned around to piss
(Tuscan delicacy)
then turned back to me,
his purple cluster in his hand.
He smiled.
His vineyard knife hung at his belt.
Slowly I pulled my shirt on, packed my books,
walked to the road, slowly,
to belie him and the hissing
that no one knew where I was
no one knew who I was
but you.

Morning After Scotch


You had the window open
in that room the light was cold and blue
brick backs of Brooklyn looked in.
She lay on the deck of the frigate of your sofa
petrels flew up from the harbor
with their china song the
wan March air growing secret
fat blueberries and nettles in her jeans,
boggy things and sand.
The day swung around
the moon sculled the equator
all the fires banked in the hammock of your pelvis
the tropics hushed,
you are sounding, sounding.

Sam's Sonnet


Ropes of plaited chain, blood scent in the iron
and lip of fire. Sun walls enclose the child.
I let go the swing. Tender crocodile’s smile,
his mother’s moan, shiver in the hidden wires
plucked like guitars, like zithers of fish lithe
as hymens, while the small boy in the swing listens.
The world throbs out its cacophonous hymns.
And nine veils of my ten I’ve paid in tithe
to stay one step ahead of the man who
bites, whose hands are knobby, who liquors blue
ruin, who beds in cold and deadly quiet,
the dark imprint of no body on mine.
In secret I twine my sister’s sweet son
to me. We hear the croak of violets.

Three Poems, Copyright © 2001 by Mary Giaimo. All rights reserved.

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