Tutti a Tavola!

After the chemo

all you want to do is watch cooking shows.

We bask before the television

as before an oven on a cold day

watching Lidia toss onions into a pan of glittering olive oil.

Our noses strain to smell her pot of marinara simmering

as we drift to another kitchen far away,

Grandma in tennis shoes and a ruffled apron

layering slices of fried zucchini with sauce and parmesan.

Your taste buds these days have turned.

Ziti tastes like wood chips;

pizza like a paper bag.

Still, like a child you savor the sight of food

watching pizza commercials

eyes wide as pepperoni as you lament,

“Just look at that dripping cheese!”

Kale smoothies be damned,

we chase away the pain of the present

by recalling meals of the past

chanting recipes like prayers:

Shrimp Scampi with shallots and butter,

Veal Parmesan with marinara,

Pasta Fagioli with garlic and cannelloni beans,

and suddenly, with a pinch of basil,

a table springs up before us,

Great grandmother’s silver set beside

the gold-rimmed china with pink flowers.

So absorbed are we in culinary magic

that when Lidia announces her meal is finished

and calls to TV viewers

“Tutti a tavola! Come to the table!”

we are not surprised to see

our own ghosts of the hearth

creeping in from the room’s dark corners:

Great Grandma Anna and her sisters,

Uncle Tony, Louie, Nicodemo,

Fred and Laurel.

Smiling, they take their seats

and pick up their forks,

ready to taste,

to savor,

to embrace one more meal.

This poem appeared in the Paterson Literary Review June 2021

Imogen

by Sir Henry Newbolt

LADIES, where were your bright eyes glancing,

Where were they glancing yesternight?

Saw ye Imogen dancing, dancing,

Imogen dancing all in white?

Laughed she not with a pure delight,

Laughed she not with a joy serene,

Stepped she not with a grace entrancing,

Slenderly girt in silken sheen?

All through the night from dusk to daytime

Under her feet the hours were swift,

Under her feet the hours of playtime

Rose and fell with a rhythmic lift:

Music set her adrift, adrift,

Music eddying towards the day

Swept her along as brooks in Maytime

Carry the freshly falling may.

Ladies, life is a changing measure,

Youth is a lilt that endeth soon;

Pluck ye never so fast at pleasure

Twilight follows the longest noon.

Nay, but here is a lasting boon,

Life for hearts that are old and chill,

Youth undying for hearts that treasure

Imogen dancing, dancing still.

What I Wanted When I Was Twelve

For Mom and Beth to move back home

For Dad to stop smoking

For him to be happy again

To be able to do a cartwheel like Tammy

To curl my bangs into a fan shape without burning my forehead

To know how to talk to boys

To get Mike Taylor to like me

To hold his hand during “Couples and Trios”

To skate backwards like that head-banger guy to Welcome to the Jungle

To know all the words to “Ice, Ice Baby”

A pair of Hammer pants

To start my own Babysitters Club.

C and C Music Factory’s single “Everybody Dance Now”

To dance like Sarah Jessica Parker in “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”

Frosty pink lipstick

A ride to the mall.

A “Coed Naked” t-shirt

For my chest to grow so I can stop pinning shoulder pads inside my bra

To sing like Wilson Phillips.

To watch all the Halloween movies

To not have to babysit my sister after school

To perfect dance moves with Tammy to Van Halen’s “Jump”

To be Becca from Life Goes On.

To see my poem published in the National Library of Poetry’s book (I paid $30).

To sit with Kathleen Kennedy at lunch

For fat Sabrina Wimbsatt to stop following me around

For Nicole Ellis not to stare at me on the bus with her snake eyes and say she’s gonna beat me up

For everyone to believe the name with hearts I wrote all over my books was really my boyfriend’s.

To stop crying so much

To go back to my old school

To go back to church

For Mom to leave Jim

To be able to see her again without us fighting

For her to understand why I’m mad at her

For Dad not to be gone so much

For it always to be like on car-rides to New Jersey when I have him to myself

To have him to myself

To have him

Round and Round

At the hospital like Persepolis I stepped
out of time’s familiar landscape
and left the light behind,
creeping down death’s long hallways,
past room after room, each one
a box holding within it a life honeycombed,
memories stored like the scent of clover
within a bale of winter hay.
Finally, I found you, lying still,
unable to speak. Staring into your eyes,
I saw my face caught like a moth
inside a glass,
my life beating inside your life,
your heart inside mine,
as we sat eye to eye
within my heart’s deepest chamber.
At ten you gave me a small brown box
that belonged to you as a child.
Inside was a smooth round stone
surrendered by the sea,
and a time-worn coin found buried
in your grandmother’s garden:
One child’s treasures passed to another
across time. The brown box disappeared
into the shadowy depths of my childhood,
lost in a move or swept away during the divorce.
Father, now that you’re gone,I long to take it in my hands,
to touch the coin and discover its ancient secrets,
to turn the stone round and round
rubbing away at the jagged edges of time like the sea
until I see you, a boy once again,
opening a drawer,
pulling out the brown box,
taking the stone into your hand,
turning it round and round.

Grasping

As we drew to a stop
in the white atrium’s light,
museum paintings swirled around us
like carousel horses,
manes flying
and his words were like mirrors
hung to distract,
yet I did not grow dizzy swirling
among pearls of light,
nor on the mesmerizing grind of calliope.
I reached for what was beneath;
I wanted the brass ring.
Leaning toward him I saw it
in his eye:
a skull staring back,
mute, grinning.

New online Writing Workshops I’m teaching this summer

for all levels beginning June 4th. See below for details.

Poet’s Companion Writing Group

June 4-June 25, 2021, Fridays from 2-3pm on Zoom

Each session of this four-week workshop will focus on exploring a different writing prompt, allowing us to take time to write separately before coming together to share what we’ve written. Working from the book The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, we’ll aim to spark ideas for more in-depth poems as we support and encourage each other.  This hour-long workshop is geared toward writers of all levels.  Poet and journalist Kristin D’Agostino currently teaches writing at New England College. Her work has been featured in The Paterson Literary Review, on Poets Online and on Vermont Public Radio.

Cost: $32 through Charlotte Senior Center. Email me at k.dagostino@gmail.com for more information or to sign up.

Exploring Your Roots Memoir Writing Workshop

August 5- September 9, 2021, Thursdays, 2-3:30pm on Zoom

In this six-week memoir-writing class we will read poetry, graphic novels and memoirs by well-known writers including Colette, Marjane Satrapi and Maria Mazziotti Gillan that explore various cultures through the lens of family, foods and tradition.  We will then write and share our own memoirs with the aim of exploring our own family heritage. Writer and educator Kristin D’Agostino writes about Italy and her Italian-American roots for Italian America magazine.

Cost: $72 through Charlotte Senior Center. Email me at k.dagostino@gmail.com for more information or to sign up.