Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Italian

THE ITALIAN

We never heard thunder,
but once the snow came with lightning
which, in my childhood imagination, was
the impact of skyborn tragedy,
like bombers over Dresden, their payloads
exploding in distant flashes and disintegrating
in floating down flakes; the hours
seemed to circle us and accumulate
as grinding centuries smoothing
the angles of houses and cars under mounds
of ancient white dust. My brothers and I,
consumed with a sense of entitlement,
rushed outside, greedy to dig and build
and fill the space where we saw only
a disturbing nothingness. Inside, mother thumbed
the latest Sears catalogue for a new winter coat
while father tapped fingers and cursed
the Italian for showing up late with his plow.
Morganti was his name, and his hardy men
- sons, brothers, cousins - shovels shouldered
like partisan rifles, fanned out to clear paths

to our door, the doors of our neighbours,
lips dangling cigarettes, chests heaving,
parkas half-zipped, red maple leaf tuques
comically askew on their heads. I thought
of a traveling troupe of jugglers come to entertain,
or puffed-up Pagliaccis with opera props.
But they were a dignified crew and all business,
no smiles, no acknowledgment of the over-fed
snowman we rolled in our front yard,
the snowfort we excavated, battlements
to duck behind with snowball arsenal.
Getting back into their Ford, the job done,
I saw the oldest Morganti turn to his family
and smirk at what passed in Canada for history.