The Empty Man

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At the bar
His place of forgetting
Mahogany surrounds
His life abetting
He stares into his empty glass

Another beer
Just one more
He can not afford
He is shown the door
He travels to his house, a home no more

He enters
His place so empty
Silence surrounds
Where his family should be
He falls to his bed wearing his unwashed shirt

He dreams of that day
When did it start
The road to his loneliness
The gaping wound in his heart
He searches his pockets for his loose change

He roams
The roads for a woman to charm
Someone to walk with him
Arm in arm
More for desire fulfilled and standing, than love

Night falls again
As he enters the bar
His place of forgetting
Those close and those far
He stares once more into his empty glass

This life chosen
A default into drink
It captures his mind and his soul
Into the darkness he sinks
And into his bed perhaps for the last time

His life to succumb
To this shallow existence
To the beer and the wine
Within his own insistence
A remedy~ empty of substance and love

He wonders
Blinded by pride
Others to blame
His own fault he hides
As he stares into his empty glass
Again

Photograph: Empty Glass of Beer from the Top by Gamaweb
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Reflection

Reflection 2016
 
It was the samewoman alone at table
From September to February
The chill of Autumn
The first snow
The lullaby carefully chosen
Anticipation and the hope
The fire warmed
Melting a heart grown cold
A pretense of care and protection
Against a solitary life
Ever lingering
Behind this facade
Remained the memory
The attachment to it grew
Like a cancer, stealth
Years passed and finally
Indifference
Holy, blessed indifference
And with indifference came
The light, the truth, and a heart
No longer cold, nor longing
But fulfilled
By a love, grown for solitude
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Wednesday Morning Rain

 

The majesty of heaven bursts
Upon the head of man
A reminder
Man does not control the rain
Neither does he start it
Nor ends it
For all the world
Man thinks he gains
For control he lusts and tries
Yet when the rain
From heaven comes
His pride is soon to die
Be humble you pretentious soul
Bow your head in shame
For your pride dissolves
Within a drop
Of God’s almighty reign

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The Lady of the Night

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moonlite

She rules silently the darkness
Banishes it to shadow
She is the conqueror of fear
Queen of the night heavens

A woman bathed in white
Her dress, like a translucent veil,
Flows over the land and sea
The night breeze carries her beauty

She commands the tides
Her rhythm bears its ebb and flow
And with her labor done
She dances on the water lightly

Look up to her young and tender lovers
Upon your faces her gentle breath lies softly
Gaze into each others eyes
In them her light reflects the coming dawn
~ The beginning of the new day.

Her name is Moon

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Vincenzo Ammirati My Grandfather

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I have written many stories about the “Ammirati Women”. There are more to come. My thoughts today, however, turn to Vincenzo Ammirati, the name bearer, my grandfather.

It was sweltering yesterday. I was dressed in black as I stood by Dung Tran’s grave. The Vietnamese are seriously traditional in ceremony around a loved one’s passing. Everyone wears black. The family places white bands around their heads. No one leaves the grave site until every bit of earth is replaced over the crypt. The cemetery, Holy Sepulcher, is small, treeless, unadorned and very familiar. It is where my grandfather is buried. Memories overtook me as I watched Dung Tran’s grave being covered over shovel by shovelful of red clay dirt.

I closed my eyes and was transported back in time. I saw myself wearing a white sun dress. I was skipping. My curly brown pigtails swished and gently brushed my face. I paused, made the sign of the cross before the graves I passed while  making sure I did not lose sight of grandma in this strange place of stone. Grandma Mariannina and I were there again to tend grandpa Vincenzo’s grave. Italian people often placed their loved one’s enameled pictures on the gravestones. I remember being at eye level of many. Soft, serious faces stared at me as I excused myself for stepping on them. Grandpa’s grave was different however. It was marked by a large stone urn into which grandma always planted red geraniums. Grandpa’s name was etched on the foundation. It was a poor man’s grave marker.

The Ammirati family history, grandpa Vincenzo’s family story, is rich with images of great wealth and great loss. My grandfather Vincenzo’s father Carlo, was involved in the most publicized court case of its time. It was around 1900. Carlo Ammirati was born into one of the richest families in Naples, Italy. The year was circa 1860, the same year Italy became a nation. Carlo’s family traded in gold. They were considered millionaires of that time. Carlo and his siblings were well-educated and lived a very good life as the young nation of Italy made its way onto the world stage. Tragedy soon struck however, when their young mother died. In time the children received word that their father would re-marry. The woman he was to marry however, did not come from within familiar social circles. She was in fact the newly chosen Beauty Queen of Naples. Together, they had more children. I do not know much about the life the children had with the beauty queen step mother and their half siblings. I can only imagine with what followed.

Carlo’s father then, died. A fortune was left. The beauty queen plotted. She would have none of the fortune go to the children born of the first wife . Her children made claim as did Carlo and his siblings from the first marriage. “Ammirati contro Ammirati” is the title of the document I found in my grandma’s precious trunk. It was the documented court case of a century ago. These pieces of paper represented the turn of events which brought my family to America and eventually the existence of the “Ammirati Women”.

A good friend from Italy translated the document for me. Millions of dollars were at stake. This case made the daily papers: “Will the First Marriage’s Children, [my grandfather’s father, Carlo and siblings] Get Their Share?” Back then, Italy’s property rights were murky and contentious, rife with intrigue. Carlo and his siblings lost. He received perhaps a small amount; one that paid for passage to America and a few years of support. Carlo was married at this time to Maria D’Ambrosia. Maria, survived physically but grew into great bitterness. She was a D’Ambrosia, born into wealth, married into wealth, and had to face losing everything to the Beauty Queen of Naples’ children. Class was a big deal then and to think that her husband was cheated by his “peasant” step mother’s children~  was unbearable. She never adjusted to America and felt betrayed by Italy.

Carlo, Maria, and their children arrived in America in 1910. Vincenzo and his brothers learned trades. Vincenzo became a cobbler, established a good business, and married my grandma. Although not millionaires, my grandparents lived a good merchant class life. Early in his marriage to my grandma, Mariannina, and after his father Carlo’s death, he took his mother Maria in.

Bitter and demanding, her diamond brooch always pinned to her bosom, she drove my grandmother crazy. She told my grandmother at the beginning of her stay that “I am the head of my son’s house and you are the tail”.  Mariannina was her own woman. The ultimatum was made to my grandfather “Either she goes to live with your brother Frank, or I leave”.  Grandpa’s brother Frank took her in. Frank lived in New York City, did well in business, and his son, a War Hero, became the famous New York artist/designer Carl Ammirati.

Grandpa and Grandma moved from New York City to Buffalo after the birth of their second child Mary, my mother. Grandpa set up his cobbler business on Buffalo’s East side. My family survived the depression well. Perhaps Americans could no longer purchase his handmade shoes but they could afford to have their shoes repaired and grandpa accommodated them. Life was good. Georgio Battaglia, grandpa’s cousin, was the very successful owner of Handle Bar Joe’s Bar downtown, and a great support. Family celebrations, our life’s blood, were many.

1934, the year Hitler became Führer and cemented Europe’s fate, brought tragedy also to our family. Grandpa Vincenzo was 14 years older than grandma Mariannina. He was now 42 and grandma 28. They had three small children Carlo, Mary, and Aurora. Grandpa had his first stroke. He was treated at the old EJ Meyer Memorial Hospital. He had money, why he ended up at the public hospital is a mystery. Grandma said they experimented on him by “injecting ” something into his head. He never recovered well. This vibrant grey eyed man, a successful cobbler who made the best of life after his own family’s great loss was silenced and paralyzed. In those days if you lost your work, there was no welfare safety net. Not yet 30 years old, Grandma was facing poverty, something so foreign to her and our family. She was literate in Italian but not so in English. Grandpa’s first cousin, Georgio Battaglia was wealthy and helped the family. His sister Amalia owned a grocery store which gave 10-year-old Carlo a small wage. Grandma sewed but had to take work into her home. Her time was devoted to grandpa’s daily total care, to three small children, and piece work. Every stitch would count for food on their table.  Grandpa lived for seven years under her care. He died in 1941. Out of this tragedy, his children, their children, and children’s children have survived, and experience still, life’s triumphs and tragedy. We are alive and grateful.

The last shovel of dirt was tapped into place. I hugged Dung Tran’s widow and walked slowly to my car. Before I left, I knew I had to find Grandpa’s grave. I hadn’t visited it for many years. Grandma Mariannina died in 1981 and the grave tending was taken over by Carlo’s good wife, my Aunt Rose. Rose became ill and left us a few years ago. Grandpa’s grave has not been attended since before 2007.

I walked to the cemetery office. The cemetery custodian saw me reading the hours of business. The office had closed an hour ago. He asked if I needed help. He opened the office, looked up where Grandpa was buried and took me to his grave. The Urn was damaged and lying on the ground next to its pedestal. Weeds replaced the long gone red geraniums. The foundation was sunken so deep that only the top of the letters of Vincenzo were visible. I made the sign of the cross. My cousins and I will most likely be the last generation of Ammirati’s to tend the grave, but not the last generation to taste triumph and defeat, joy and tragedy.

America, so changed from when my ancestors came, is now too a nation of separation. Our children did not have to cross an ocean as did their great-great grandparents yet they are scattered within the vastness of America. They live where they may make a living and survive. They are far from us and further from their ancestors’ graves.

I write these stories so that they will remember where they came from. I write to remind them that triumph and tragedy is life. Hope will always vanquish despair no matter the sacrifice and suffering. Bitterness is defeat. My breath will one day be gone, not so the word to paper.

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The Lady of the Night

moonlite

She rules silently the darkness
Banishes it to shadow
She is the conqueror of fear
Queen of the night heavens

A woman bathed in white
Her dress, like a translucent veil,
Flows over the land and sea
The night breeze carries her beauty

She commands the tides
Her rhythm bears its ebb and flow
And with her labor done
She dances on the water lightly

Look up to her young and tender lovers
Upon your faces her gentle breath lies softly
Gaze into each others eyes
In them her light reflects the coming dawn
~ The beginning of the new day.

Her name is Moon

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Grief

fair_sky_night

It happens
All at once
Emptiness
Hollowness
Dry eyes sting
As the first tear forms
A memory
Children laughing
Eyes wide with wonder
The scent of popcorn
Always better than the taste
My hand in his
A wink shared over
The children’s delight
Gold fish in a bag of water
The fireman’s fair
The end of summer
Now alone
It’s not the same
It happens
All at once…

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