Joey Nicoletti

Self-checkout

           

Now that season 3 of The Sopranos sleeps with the Swedish fish 

in the plastic and cardboard sea of DVD cases

of a supermarket endcap;

now that James Gandolfini, 

the actor who played Tony

Soprano, the lead role, is dead,

I shake my head as I get in line

and my spouse informs me

 

that Tony will get screen time again, 

that he will return, like Polio,

in the form of a prequel movie

set during his childhood.

 

My spouse checks our cart: we forgot

to pick up ice cream.

She tells me to scan as soon as I can.

She will be back 

in two shakes.

 

As I wait for a lane to open up,

I consider my feelings about why

I hate The Sopranos so. 

Its popularity is not 

the bane of my existence,

but it hits me like a nightstick

 

when I hear people express 

their enthusiasm for the actions

of Tony’s family and crew;

their propensity for abuse; 

for murdering anyone

who gets in their way

or who they believe 

has slighted them.

 

I abhor the show’s writers, 

their use of pidgin Italian 

for comedic effect; 

to make people believe 

what they see and hear; 

to keep watching; often insensate 

or blasé to the possibility

 

that such is a misguided view;

a flawed understanding 

of the majority 

of Italian Americans. 

It’s fun for them

to watch Tony behave 

like a stronzo.

 

Not enough Americans know

about Sacco and Vanzetti.

Not enough Americans know

about the interment of its citizens

of Italian descent in World War Two—

Americans of Japanese descent, too.

 

I want to say that Italianness is more

than electrifying performances

or studied interpretations 

of tough, cunning characters; 

I want to believe 

that being famous in pop culture is a sign 

that people of my heritage 

have come of age;

have made it big in America.

 

But such portrayals and shows don’t account 

for those who haven’t led lives of crime;

for those who dedicate their lives

to helping others. They devalue

the achievements of scholars, doctors, 

and other community leaders. 

They eviscerate

 

any chance of Italian Americans being seen 

or understood

as people who are not always

trigger-happy, mercenary, devious, vulgar,

or have an insatiable appetite

for power. My spouse returns. 

She asks me

what I’m thinking about.

 

It’s time to raise awareness, I say.

I want to change 

bada bing 

into bada no stereotype. 

I think it can start 

with being different 

in movies and TV.

 

My spouse smiles. I hope

we get the Breyer’s 

Neapolitan ice cream scanned

before it melts, she says.

I want us to be at ease.

I want us to please

our troubled, tired, mouths.

 

Noise Rock

 

Let the rain drain you.

Let the rain serenade you.

Let the rain be your pilot

as you board tonight’s Boeing 737 of sleep,

as chickadees wait for their chance

to perch on the back porch;

to eat some seed

before fingers of mist strum

guitar strings of power lines

with its blistery fingers. I regret

that your head hurts, my love; I’m sorry 

that the pain is worse

because of what I said

and how callously I said it,

a Mocha-brown blanket with a hole

in the middle, rolled in a ball

on the love seat. I take

deep breaths. As much progress

as I have made in weathering 

storms inside and outside of me,

I have more floors and sidewalks to cover.

I will turn off the lights, and listen to music

on my iPod. Old school. Noise rock.

I will stretch out on the couch by choice

with the cat beside me, so that he doesn’t scratch

on the bedroom door, as you try

to rest. I will try not to think

of my father, of the many nights

and mornings he slept in the living room

at my mother’s behest 

when I was a child. A Lee Renaldo lick

kicks off my slumber set, a sonic massage

for my aching mind and heart.

 

Bio:

Joey Nicoletti’s latest book is Boombox Serenade, which is forthcoming later this year from BlazeVOX Press. He teaches creative writing at SUNY Buffalo State.

 

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