What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.

“In the Waiting Room”, Elizabeth Bishop
There are times when, in my mother’s voice,
her father’s voice distracts me from her words,
doppelganger-speak in some translation
that sounds as if she’s simply again saying Hi –
when in truth it is her father come to say,
in the language of the living, that he’d like
for me to take a moment and to think
of all the time we spent in shady joints,
our elbows on a sticky wooden bar,
the half-light and the acrid smell of booze,
stale beer and the years-old reek of smoke.
I also hear when my daughter speaks –
my mother’s voice addressing me as Dad?
asking me if I can watch the kids,
and when I answer, my aunt, my mother’s sister,
answers back, but with her father’s voice
in which I hear the tinny timbre of
his eccentric mother, Grandma Far-Away,
asking if I’d like some “funny water”
in a voice my other daughter borrows
to bring me up to speed on all her plans,
sounding just like Uncle Rocky did
when he’d grin a menacing grin and talk
about his tennis game or bothering girls
in the flickering darkness of the theater.
Then my boy speaks with his brother’s voice,
but it’s my father, calling to say his wife
is going to have a child, their first. We share
the joy with jokes on our advancing age
and hopes that it will be a boy to keep
our name alive. I smile and clear my throat

[1] John L. Stanizzi, Dance against the Wall, Antrim House, Simsbury, CT, 2012. © John L. Stanizzi. Tutti I diritti sono di proprietà dell’autore. Riproduzioni, anche parziali, dei materiali contenuti nel volume sono possibili solo previa autorizzazione dell’editore e dell’autore. La raccolta si articola in 4 sezioni: I. THE ROAD HOME (11 poesie); II. MOWING THE APPLES (15 poesie); III. AFTER ELLIS ISLAND (11 poesie); IV. MORE THAN ENOUGH (9 poesie).