Edvige Giunta was born in Sicily and lives in the United States. She is the author of Writing with an Accent and coeditor of several anthologies, including the forthcoming Talking to the Girls: Intimate and Political Essays on the Triangle Fire (New Village Press). Her writing has appeared in anthologies and magazines such Creative Nonfiction, Barrow Street, Mutha Magazine, Assay, Jellyfish Review, and December.
I hunger for last summer’s touch, the ease of my arms around my girlfriend’s waist, us on the scooter, like when we were girls on the streets of Gela.
That morning in Santa Maria La Scala, the pigeons watched us from the abandoned mill at the entrance of La Timpa. Rain came quick, heavy, and we found shelter under her flimsy raincoat. The Ionian Sea was gray and restless. We balanced on the solidified spills of the volcano. I bent to collect three obsidian rocks.
Back in America, before the pandemic, I gave one rock each to my kids. The third sits on my altar with other Sicilian rocks the girlfriend of my youth gave me. Every morning, I touch it with my fingertips, then hold it in my palm and close my fingers. In my fist I feel the power to outlast.
Pine trees take me back to early morning walks in the forest of the land of Persephone where my little sister coughed incessantly and where scrawny miner boys stripped naked and crawled inside the earth and where I played with sixty orphan boys who promised they would protect me from werewolves. Because I believed them, at night I climbed quietly out the window and ran fast on the dirt road. The moon was full and orange and I knew the werewolves would come out and try to grab me. Still, I ran, the beat of terror propelling young skinny legs.
On Good Friday I don’t eat meat, but my mind goes to carne a bagnomaria, veal cutlets dressed with olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt my grandmother cooked on an aluminum plate atop a pot of boiling-something—soup, pasta. My people’s’ cuisine was frugal and inventive. Dip chunks of stale bread in soup. Slice stale bread and fry it: Pane fritto. Soak chunks of stale bread in freshly squeezed lemon juice, water, olive oil, salt, pepper, and you have insalata di limoni. Snack was bread and walnuts, or watermelon, a little cheese. One bite of this, one of that.
Pigeons are not supposed to be scary, but when they sit, thousands of them, on the roof of the ruined mill, right before a sudden shower catches you by surprise, and the birds, those common, harmless pigeons, fly all at once, up, veer right, and left as if coming for you—right then, you consider you should fear them. But your feet balance perfectly on lava rocks and you stand cradled between Aetna and the Ionian Sea. You are not afraid of pigeons, or hawks. You are grateful they have come to haunt you, made the swoosh of ghosts audible.
Cemetery records specify 17 months and 1 day—July 31st, 1932.
No such specification is given for my great-grandfather, Diego Vincenzo Tignino. Age 65, cemetery records say—a respectable age. No need to count days.
Not so for the girl of broken bones and dark apparitions, nocturnal running through the town, promises and omens and, let’s suppose, a glimmer of hope that her mother, believer in miracles, might have kept despite the pronouncements of secular and divine authorities that her baby girl would soon die.
Thar first day of her eighteenth month, a small miracle, was thus duly recorded, to be found one day, and remembered.
It was eerie this morning on the beach, me, my shadow, and the Mediterranean, whether welcoming or indifferent, I wasn’t sure.
I left my shoes on the sand and walked, almost all the way to the Tower of Manfria. I picked up a shell, a stone, talismans to accompany me on my return to America, that foreign land where home is now.
I had done this walk many times, but never alone. I wondered whether it was safe to go in the water. No one to save me.
I looked towards the horizon, stepped in the water, plunged in, grateful, touched, unafraid.
Poetry in this post: © Edvige Giunta
Published with the permission of Edvige Giunta