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Mary Leonard


I Googled Montagano 


Nonna  I never met you

            never saw Montagano 

                       your Molise village

Never knew you

             but saw Montagano today on the Internet

                        and want to ask    did you pick wildflowers

for your table under the olive trees? 


Did you try to make the best 

             of stale bread, cold coffee, the absence of greens

                        no slices of sweet red tomatoes? 

Every day at lunch, you listened to the landlord's voice,

            louder than the noon time bell 

                                    from Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo

What did you have for lunch?   You answered  Nothing 

                        He lists his feast

                        He comes close   you smell  garlic  rabbit   you swoon

                                     He steps closer    too close     so close

                                                to hand sweet Nick  

                                                              biscotti from Campobasso 


Today found this

            I can rent a cozy stone house for 38 dollars a night on Airbnb

                      Nonna could it be your old house

                                   the one dark room  cold in winter

                                               no air in summer?

And this  For sale a three story house

                       with a stairway to the stars, 

                                   a stairway of great value

I can buy your landlord's house for 300 thousand Euros!



Nonna  you were a bird of passage   an immigrant wanting to return--

                        a mansion is waiting for you 

                                   You can be the landlord now

                                              hear the pigs squeal everyday  

                                                           grow tomatoes between the stones 

                                   plant olive trees  grapevines  lavender

The Northerners won't yell terroni at you 

                       No longer their  dirtyshittypeasant


I know this

            we could go back Nonna, 

                      take a ferry to the island of Termoli


Trip Advisor says

            one can take a ferry and then a water taxi to one's hotel 

                      and swim in a blue pool  or hike down to the one sandy beach

                           or one can rent a boat and row to the caves of white porous rock

From 2015 I see you  Nonna 

              swimming in your black wool dress in the blue Adriatic

                      warm  so warm on this island of Termoli

100,000 visitors come each summer,  

                                                the temperature  88 in July and August



Today you and I can take a helicopter for 50 Euros

            You fill your  bundle with

                        wine and fresh bread   I fill my backpack with

                                  water and wildflowers  We climb the rocks, 

                                                                                you hiking up your skirts, 

I stretching back for your hand



We  disappear into the dark caverns   disappear into the unknown 

                         like you did with Papa and Nick on your  voyage to America 

                                    How did you know to go?

Did the town crier run down the street  yelling

                                                             the streets are paved with gold

Follow me me  cheap  cheap  chirp  chirping like the tiny birds

                    the ones overhead  the very ones  you grabbed to wring their necks, 

                                pull off their feathers and roast in the fire

                                            eating even the small bones

Your secret  like the amulets you sewed inside the folds of your black wool dress.



I know this

            You  Papa and Nick  followed the town crier

                         on foot  in carts  on trains  in steerage

                                                forever  to Ellis island

You traveled light   Nothing much in your bundle

         garlic to string  around your neck

                     a small vial of holy water from Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo 

                                  wooden rosary beads to get you through the night

Did the dark folds of your blanket cover the smell of cabbagevomitshitsweat

            Did you dream of the green and blue of Montagano 

                                              or the imagined streets paved with gold?   What did 

you believe? You did not believe 

                                              never went to mass  wore garlic to ward off evil



In Hell's Kitchen   you didn't know Dutch    

                                              Hell  the violent swirls of water in the Hudson.

                                   Hell  the tight dark railroad apt   where you sewed  

                                               for a few dollars a week

                                   Hell  eating stale bread  drinking cold coffee


Lonely   No landlord asked you what you ate for lunch

Violent   The Irish spit in your face  Nick stole roasted potatoes

              to throw in their faces         Westside Story before guns and knives. 



Did you dream of Montagano's pure blue air  the island of Termoli

                          you never visited    as far away as America?


My treat is this

            the house dating back to the fourteenth century

                        the one belonging to nobility  the one with the stone stairway?

I will  call +39-0874-433-2230   buy the house so we can go to Termoli

          picnic on the sand  eat three local meats  pull apart fresh bread

                     so we can both arrive. 


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