With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
Subscribe and Save up to 45%
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.