Joey Nicoletti: "Risotto Elegy"




The day crushed me

like a grape in its green pain as I read

a few words about my Uncle Enzo

at his funeral mass. My voice cracked

as I tried to decipher my handwriting.

The windows rattled a stained-glass hymn

when an airplane flew above the church. I wondered

if its passengers were shuffling in their seats

as nervously as my relatives were in the pews.

Then we went to a bistro around the corner.

Our whistles wet with Chianti,

everyone told Uncle Enzo stories, even my Aunt

Zia, his widow, who usually said

yes as a long answer to a question.

No was her short one.

She talked about the time he tried

to build a campfire in their backyard

by rubbing my brother's Lincoln Logs together.

My mother's hapless sigh rose in steam

from her plate of risotto,

her attention divided

between Aunt Zia and the crash

of broken plates; an off-key choir

scattered in the kitchen

like Uncle Enzo's ashes in the East River,

telephone wires stitching the sky.


Joey Nicoletti is the author of Borrowed Dust (Finishing Line Press). His poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, most recently Green Hills Literary Lantern, Stymie Magazine, Italian Americana, Tulane Review, and Bridging New York: An Anthology of New York City’s Bridges. He currently teaches poetry writing and literature at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York.