Sala Consilina, Italy
She stoops, gestures at us with a plate
of irregular ravioli. Teresa stayed home
from ninth grade to knead the pasta dough.
Her mother pretties the dolci in the kitchen,
her father, wide at one end of the table,
orders more salami, more mozzarella, more—
his voice a policeman’s even at home. The fireplace
smokes, illuminates the baby fat on Teresa’s cheeks
as she revolves around the table, offers
us, the Americani, too much.
The TV fills in the gaps between the father’s stop
and go English. Each phrase ends with ok? capito?
We eat the second, third helpings, nod as directed.
Teresa whispers to me in English, “I write poetry.” Dante,
Shakespeare, Montale were read out loud in her classrooms.
Schoolbooks are distributed in September. Reading
is limited: there are no bookstores in Sala.
Her father orders
her to tradurre, translate her words.
The dinner newsman narrates the night-film of bombs
hitting Baghdad. Crisp lights, almost shooting
stars, collapse at the bottom of the screen, white fog rises.
plates balanced on her arm towards her elbow