For Joanna Rose Costa

I want to bring them back, 
Louie Costa, Sr. and Rose Leonardo, 
the great-grandparents of my grandchild, 
immigrants from the Azores I never met 
and never will. I see them in this old 
wedding photo, now tinted by age and 
the sadness that tints all wedding 
photographs. I want to know everything 
about the tall, angular man with 
the eager-immigrant look that says, 
“Show me the work and I will do it,” 
and the petite, gloved woman, with Holy 
Mother of God symmetry to her face. 
Her name will join my name 
to make up the child’s name.

If I could bring them back I suppose 
at first I would try to find some 
common ground, as people do when 
they meet. I would tell them 
I know what it is like to be owned 
by a dairy herd, to be tied 
to the clock of cows’ udders. 
I know the smell of hay, the buzzing 
flies, the white, forceful streams 
of pure milk coming with assurance, 
so close to the manure of the gutter. 
But I would try to hide what is piercing 
my heart, the burden of knowing 
what lies ahead, the worst thing 
imaginable: one of their children, 
the girl with the heartbreaking blond 
ringlets, will burn up in a fierce 
fever and die in their arms.

As I lower my eyes, helpless, 
I notice the slight warping, 
the small unevenness in the hem 
of the bride’s dress. I want to run 
to get my pincushion, fill my mouth 
with pins, kneel before them, 
and make it smooth.