Luisa LoCascio Matarazzo
The 1950’s: At the Kitchen Table with Papa
At the kitchen table after dinner,
he’d tell me puffed up glory-filled stories
of Giuseppe Garibaldi and Camillo Cavour
who fought for Italian independence but at the end
when nothing changed the people remained the same.
I’d tell him puffed up glory-filled stories
of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
who fought for American independence and at the end
in America you could pick yourself up by your bootstraps
and become anything you wanted.
He said in Sicily the people had no boots.
At our local movie theatre, with the gold curlicue ceiling,
my friend Margie and I sit in red plush seats
and go galloping away with Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
On the way home, we yell: All for one and one for all.
In the black and white movie Maid Marion said to Robin:
Why, you speak Treason!
Robin answers: Fluently.
At home, I ask Papa: What is treason?
He indicates a chair.
I sit down.
He lights up one of his Turkish cigarettes,
inhales deeply, and says:
Tanti anni fa, my uncles burned down
the municipio in my hometown in Sicily.
My mother, washing dishes at the sink,
turns off the water,
wipes her hands on her flowered housedress,
sits down, and starts to twiddle her thumbs.
She likes to keep certain things unsaid.
I could tell this could turn out to be an argument.
Spoken in the Sicilian dialect,
of which I could understand little,
these arguments could start out early
in the morning and last until midnight.
My brothers and sisters called these arguments:
The Early Show, The Late Show and the Late, Late Show.
But no argument tonight. With my mother staring him down,
he remains silent; takes a sip of his homemade wine and
to avoid the dangerous look in her eyes,
he looks out the window.
Slowly, she pushes her chair back,
arranges her housedress, steps to the sink,
turns on the water, and says: Luisa come dry the dishes.
I will have to wait for this story of treason.
Louise LoCascio Matarazzo was born in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1937, to a Sicilian mother and father. who came to the States in 1913. When anyone asked if she was Italian, her father taught Luisa to answer, “No, I am Sicilian.” Luisa has taken the stories her father told her about Sicily to write a memoir about growing up Sicilian in America. Luisa also writes poems in which she reflects upon growing up with six siblings, a long marriage with children and grandchildren, followed by divorce at age seventy-five. Luisa lives in New Jersey. She has traveled extensively through the many glorious towns of Italy and Sicily, stopping once in Puglia to teach English as a second language to high school students, She often takes along her paint box on her trips and puts brush to canvas to capture the light caressing the many landscapes of Sicily, France, and Italy.