In memory of my great-uncle, Giuseppe Chiappone (1904-1924) 

We find your grave, Dad and I, on that leaden
December day, sloshing through the boneyard
passing row upon row upon acres of surnames as lilting as arias
Alessandra, Giallella, Mineo, Pelonero

Each monument a testament to uprooters who renounced
the equator’s warmth and olive groves and vineyards
and hunger and poverty and misery,
for Buffalo’s steel mills and wintry lake effect storms

We almost abandon the search until
I spot your sedate expression on a tilted marble obelisk
Your raven hair combed back from a wide callow forehead
Bowtie embellishing a snowy shirt, lapel decorations from long ago

Gazing back at you across a wide expanse of time
I am stunned by your youthful beauty
Reaching out to touch your face
I shout He’s here! He’s here!

1922 … a giovanotto, you arrived first to establish a homestead
Two of your sisters soon followed
to quarti vicini in a wildernesss of tenements
redolent of aglio, formaggio, pasta, pomodori

How many signorinas whispered ti amo to you?
After fixing gas lines all week, did you celebrate with your paesans?                
All of you raising the grappa shouting, A salud! Cento anni!
To your health! May you live 100 years!

Did you suffer when the explosion happened?
A blinding nova scattering a million pieces into infinity
Just another peasant in the maw of the gas company
They didn’t even pay for your burial

One brief score of orbits around the sun
No esposa, no bambini,
Uncle, I come to bear witness 

Ti amo

signorinas- young women
giovanotto-  young man
quarti vicini- close quarters
aglio, formaggio, pasta, pomodori- garlic, cheese, pasta, tomatoes
paesans- countrymen
esposa, bambini- wife, children
ti amo- I love you

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