Jul/Aug 2005 Poetry

Waltzing Above Pepino's Marble

by Patrick Carrington

Waltzing Above Pepino's Marble

We moved a special way in the cemetery—
in three-quarter time, knees bending
like Strauss had a hand in the mourning
racket, as if his baton allowed us
to glide and lessen the weight
on my grandfather's chest. Sundays
at Holy Name we grieved his passing,
my grandmother's only god who slept
as he came, arm in arm

with old goumbares. They landed
in misfitted caps tight like thorns,
in pants too short for legs
that had broken free of nails. Those
white streaks on his black stone
were born that day, she said,
when he cried at the torch

as they powdered him for lice
like an insect, like the flies
that swarmed impoverished streets
he left behind. When he died,
she dusted him off and embossed
the poison on rock they shipped
to liberty like him, from his hometown

quarry. She met it at a dock in Red Hook,
made certain only men whose names
had proper vowels handled its dignity.
Distant relatives she thought, who knew
the gentle steps of honor. My
grandmother taught me to walk
without touching the ground

when we danced. She drew the Venetians
at night, and Al di la made a wobbling boy
her beau from Napoli courting
with flowers and wine,
the ironing board her wedding altar.

Roses for you, Stacia, she heard
as we waltzed through the slanted lights
of the old country in a Brooklyn parlor. Float,
your shoes are air, she said. Spread

your arms and be a man of grace
who does not tread on the hearts of angels.
Fly like they do, above, with them. Their
lives are closed wounds. Let them heal.


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