Laura E. Ruberto

Watts

(for Sabato Rodia)
     
   

The towers dance with me.
Light and free.
Momentarily connected.
Both of us otherwise constrained by place and history. 

The towers possess me.
Their creator bends and pulls my body into graceful curves,
as though I were a piece of his metal shaped against a train rail.

The towers offer themselves to me.
Each piece detailed, memorized, mine.
A free-form love song I compose at their feet,
Feeling the impossibility of it all.   

     
         
 

First Day

     
   

Hallac, the 54-year-old dentist, who just arrived from Turkey.  
The Divinity School grad student, Joseph, who opens the door for me.  
Adam, the white boy I assume is stoned, who tells me, “I’m homeless.”  
The eager Berkeley High senior, Jessica, with two attorney parents.  
The beautiful woman from Ecuador who asks me if I’m Spanish.  
The white SAHM with a fountain pen and an English degree from Oberlin.  
Dianna, the 70-year-old who makes her own hats, has an MBA from Harvard, and wants to be a film producer.  
18-year-old Alfonso, from East Oakland, with gang tatoos up and down his arms and neck.  
The Asian American 20-something, a San Francisco State undergrad, who loves Italian slasher films.
Annie—two jade studs pierced on the back of her neck—who just moved from New York City and works full-time at a pet store in San Francisco.  
The 25-year-old African American woman, whose son started first grade the same day as mine.  
The 25-year-old Iranian woman, who respectfully asks me if I had heard what was happening in her country.  
The 21-year-old, former Israeli soldier who hopes to transfer to Stanford.  
The 21-year-old Arab American, former US soldier, back from Iraq.  
The know-it-all UC Berkeley Rhetoric major, Sam, who has run out of money.  
The soft-spoken 40-ish year old man wearing a crumpled grey suit who waits to be called on and then says,  
             simply, “Thank you for being here with us.”  

     
         
 

Radical Italian Labor Party

     
   

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti spend the afternoon rolling out cavatelli with their fingertips. Maria Margotti turns the grinder handle, stuffing in the seasoned pork, while Frank Serpico twists each link into perfectly-shaped sausages. Pete Panto splatters oil all over the place preparing delicate fritto misto. Angela Bambace stirs a heavy red sauce and grates a big pile of pecorino. Out back, Salvatore Giuliano and Giuseppe Impastato wrap wild fennel around the suckling pig they are roasting, charring bell peppers on the embers. Carlo Tresca and Giuseppe Ciancabilla wrangle with live crabs over boiling pots of water. James Groppi bakes batches of biscotti and fruit tarts. Mario Savio carries a bottle of oil, salt, and garlic around with slices of grilled bread, making bruschetta for everyone to munch on. Angelo Luca uses his cane to pick figs, persimmons, and prickly pears, carefully cutting away the thorns.  Anteo Zamboni and Michael Schirru clean and cook up bunches and bunches of broccoli rabe. And while Tina Modotti waits for her bread to rise she pours the wine and sets the long table, leaving room on each end for all of us.

     
         
 

Meals I Cooked For You But That You Never Ate

     
   

Short ribs braised in wine.
Pork roast prepared with wild fennel we picked on a walk.
Fresh sardines, grilled, bought at the market that morning.
Milky-white mozarella.
Juicy, sweet tomatoes that smell like love.
Wild nettles ripassate in padella with lots of oil and salt.
A quick plate of aglio, olio, e peperoncino cooked late at night.
In the morning, strong coffee with warm milk and biscotti that are never too sweet.
And there were apricots too, lots and lots of apricots.

     
 
      return to poetry
 

Laura E. Ruberto is a professor of Humanities and co-chair of the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at Berkeley City College. She is the author of Gramsci, Migration, and the Representation of Women’s Work, the co-editor of Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema, and the translator of Such Is Life, Ma la vita e’ fatta cosi: A Memoir. A Fulbright Faculty Research Scholar, she also co-edits the book series “Critical Studies in Italian America” at Fordham University Press and is the Film and Digital Media Review Editor for the Italian American Review. She keeps a blog, “Raccogli e Passa: Dispatches from California,” at www.i-italy.org/bloggers/raccogli-e-passa.