Gianna Patriarca

Gianna Patriarca

The Tower

I was seven the year I attempted to murder Sister Fiorenza.  Having cracked open a good chunk of her forehead with the steel pencil case I flung at her as she remained sitting at her desk in her indifferent, superior space.  Her toxic, red blood streaming down the starched white bib where the large crucifix had rested undisturbed.  That Jesus bounced off her chest like a slingshot, scraped her fleshy cheek and then landed back on her bound breasts.   For a second all I saw was red, white and black.   My heart thundered, ready to erupt like the volcano my grandma used to tell me about.  The one that swallowed a whole Italian town.   I stood from my desk, sprinted the two or three meters to the closet where my little sister; held prisoner among the brooms, rags and garbage, was coughing away.  I pulled open the door.  The dust scattered mixing with the smell of the decaying medieval walls of that tower.  I grabbed my sister’s hand, pulled her out of her cell and we ran out into the circular terrazzo.  Two terrorized little rabbits in two little grey dresses.  There was no escape at the end of the terrazzo, just a solid stone wall as high as the sky.  I looked down over the balcony.   Just below, the green, mossy soil of freedom lined the River Liri that ran through my town.  I looked at Maria as she stood trembling in a puddle of piss and tears.  

“Now don’t be scared, just roll like a ball.”  We jumped.


Gianna Patriarca is an award-winning author of 8 books of poetry, one children’s book, and a collection of short fiction.  Her work has been adapted for stage, CBC radio drama, and appears in four documentaries.  Her work is extensively anthologized and is on the course list of universities in Canada, USA, and Italy.  Her book, Italian Women and Other Tragedies, is in its fourth printing and has been translated into Italian.