Paolo Mio
Joseph Bathanti

Carrying a smith’s tools
in a land which would not brook his fire,
he planted seeds,
and each year the birds

took his first fruit, leaving him
to rave woodenly like a false prophet,
one eye blind,
the other like a smoked marble.

When his wife died, he buried her
out of country in a hill
filled with Lutherans
and never returned.

Hiding in the grape arbor,
I felt his anger coursing through me.
Even then I knew
I was his Hercules.

One eye squinted, I can see
his now-boxed body alive
in the shuttered room
where he slept alone

and danced the Tarantella
in Sunday shirt and gold watch,
brooded over Chianti and fierce Parodis.
His daughters, whom he could not distinguish

from fishwives, pulled me from the door.
But after he was drunk,
we all heard him: rasping
his compline in dialect, roaring

with the blasted mouth of a soldier,
invoking Jesu
and Garibaldi in one breath.
There are relics of him strewn

throughout the garden:
watch chain, cigar stubs,
shards of shattered bottles,
a broken spade.

His shirt flaps in the wind.
The scarecrow wears his fedora.
I lift my hands to bless the birds
that swoop down on these elegies.

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