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Donna Pucciani

Calabria Discovers the Sea

The history books say
you were too busy repelling invaders
to make a boat, paint it blue and white.
Too busy growing figs and almonds
to cast yourself out to sea, reel yourself in
at dawn, row back in the hot sun
with a catch of silver dinners.

You spread your nets for olives, not fish.
Where is your harbor, oh little town
falling off the mountain, tumbling
sideways, then rubbing your head
in surprise?

No tangled lines, no little boats
washed up on the beach, no nets
draped and drying in the heat.
You bury yourself in an avalanche
of rooftops, sun, chestnuts.

The sea has waited centuries
to hold you to her white-foamed breast,
feed you with the steady blue of her eyes,
dress you in emeralds, nourish you
with finned victuals.

No battered oars ashore. Your labor
of choice was planting and gathering
whatever could be lured from rock.
The donkey and the plough were your boat,
the sweat of your hands, your salt.

The sea is a patient woman, watching for you
to lift your earthbound eyes, a muscled hand
shading them from the great blistering star
of day. You see not her dark aqua elegance
but, in your mind’s eye, only the ship
that will leave from Naples in a months’ time,
carrying you in the stench-filled hold,
a steerage of hope in the belly of the whale.

Then you will see her for the first time
in the foghorn’s low moan, the wake’s white “V,”
a journey of wreckage and faith, a feast of ocean
leaving behind the lonesome blue Med
hugging her loveless cliffs.