I have so much to tell you,
now that I am dead.

I left my native soil in 1895 to seek
a land as warm as gold, as rich
as mother’s milk, its name Italian
as my own:
Named for my countryman,
Amerigo, the map maker.

I learned this from the voices of
the other dead.

I was one of 14 million.
They called it a diaspora.
I did not know the meaning
of that word
in my lifetime.

The dead know so much more
than the living.

How could I have known?
What does a leaf know
of all the other leaves
on all the outstretched arms
of downy oaks?
What does a leaf care if it is
one of 14 million?
It simply goes about its day,
bending in the wind,
cupping the rain.
Doing what it must do
to stay alive.

I would not have left my home,
had there been food.
With only half enough to feed us,
half of us must go.

And so, I ate six thousand miles.
I ate the Apennines and the Alps,
devoured the French lavender fields,
the sands of Normandie. I ate the swill
of rank steerage and saltwater,
drank the sweat and grit of huddled
passengers who sailed with me
from LeHavre to Ellis Island.

Although I could not read or write,
the words were branded
on my strong back. They said,
I will build your bridges
and pave your highways.
Split the stone in your quarries.
Cobble your leather shoes.
I will work for food.

I came to eat at your table,
Lady America. I came to sit,
elbow to elbow, with boat people
and caravan walkers.
Those who came with bare feet
and sacks of hunger.
Even the caged and the stolen ones.
I share my bread with them.
I hold on my lap
the little Guatemalan girls
who died at your armored gates.

At the table of the dead,
what is there between us?

Even though I am dead,
my bones still creak and thirst
for greenish olive oil.
My empty rib cage still encases
whiffs of Apennine air.
My crumbling tongue begs
the tint and dew of blood-colored
wine. And cured flesh of fatty hog—
it, too, as red as wine.

But most of all, my body craves
the crumpled green cloth of mountain slopes
I once knew,
as comforting as cornmeal porridge
to feed my
immortal hunger.


Photo by Manan on Unsplash

Catherine Marenghi

A native of Massachusetts, Catherine Marenghi is the author of "Breaking Bread: Poems". She received first-place honors in separate contests judged by acclaimed poets Richard Blanco and Jennifer Clement. She received first-place honors from the Academy of American Poets University and College Poetry Prize program. Her work has appeared in Cider Press Review, Sisyphus, Peregrine Journal, Crossroads, Solamente en San Miguel, Italian Americana, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Phi Kappa Phi Forum, and Conclave, among others. She also authored "Glad Farm: A Memoir" (Tate Publishing, 2016), a story of stark poverty and resilience. President Jimmy Carter called it “inspiring.” She holds an M.A., B.A. summa cum laude in English, where she studied with Denise Levertov and X.J. Kennedy.