As Fox Chase gears up for its second annual Poets on the Porch event at Ryerss Museum and Library, six of the seven poets slated to read at the event have shared some of their work with us. You can see them perform other works at Ryerss on Aug. 20 at Ryerss at 1 p.m.
Legacy (for Catherine Carlo Pallitto) By Elizabeth Pallitto
Their work is prayer, says Sister Mary of the monks’ coffin-making labor.
Regal cheekbones nose proud as a bird’s hair, tufts of feather the faraway look of one perched before flight the hospice bed but a temporary nest for this bird-like creature.
Family history: tales of my Italian grandmother, mythic to me once breathed into life in words from my aunt’s parched lips. inaccessible, now.
“Water?” I ask; “Why bother?” is the fierce retort, from this fierce kind creature, this three-time survivor of a new heart nestled into her chest the way she might have held a child, the way the tumor nestles inside her. That is all that grows now.
Yet the instinct to nurture is there still. Though she can no longer eat, she asks me: “Honey, do you make your own gravy?” And I: “I do, sometimes.” Wishing I could feed her as she has fed me, she who cannot eat But I only ask for her recipe.
I imagine a rich sauce simmering all day, such secrets aunt Catherine, then a young wife, wrestled from Betty, née Donata, over white mountains of laundry from nine men, from the family outcasts she’d housed. “Somebody had to do it,” she’d explained.
And then: she crooks a claw-like finger and I bend closer to hear the secret of life, my bequest from Aunt Catherine, She should know: happily married for 63 years, “keeping company” for 68.
“Did you ever hear of Franceso Rinaldi?” “Yes,” I say. “Well, I add a little garlic, chopped up. We like it.” She nods in that conspiratorial way specific to Italians of that generation.
Just so, my aunt, the wife of my godfather Uncle Tony, whispered to me the secret of happiness. before she died, soon after.
It is the secret I share with you. It’s that simple.
First published in The Fox Chase Review