Caruso by Aislinn Rossi

Tonight my Grandmother is dancing to the Italian station
on her radio. Tonight,
I am letting the words of il caruso sink into my throat
although I do not understand them.
I know, only distantly,
that the song is about the sea.

You see, tonight- we’ve set the TV to mute, so we don’t have to hear
the way a politician speaks on the news, about a new wave of migrants
trying to make their homes here- these days

Nonna is so thin that she’s almost translucent,
but tonight, that just means I can see the steel beneath her skin
when she smiles, gentle,
and says I hope they are well.
lasciarli essere ben.

And tonight, the way her voice trips over her vowels,
trimming her consonants down like rose bushes
is reminding me that she still has a whole other language inside of her,

the way I have longing inside of me.
The way all these new migrants have hope inside of them.

So I have her teach me lines of poetry that slip sideways
from my clumsy English speaking mouth
and I dance with her to il caruso on a tinny old radio
and let her language fill my longing.

She says that in italy, they say that to each bird his nest is beautiful, which here,
means ‘there’s no place like home.’

So tonight,
I thank God that she had the strength to cross the sea
at only seventeen-
and grow a garden in this country,
knowing that here,
is a malleable concept.

© Aislinn Rossi 2017.

Aislinn’s performance of this poem won the 2017 Summer Slam poetry competition, hosted by SpokenWord SA.