Nights in the Old Country
Out of the paper mill village night she came:
Mrs. Delhomey, my Nonna’s neighbor. Small
as a child—my size—in nightgown, robe, and slippers.
Thin plaited hair, teeth taken out for sleep. My Jo,
she lisped to Nonna, I’m running away from home.
No one could blame her. Her daughter, Margaret, had a voice
that blistered paint from Buicks. Nonna was kind.
Would you like some ice cream, Mrs. Delhomey?
Yeth, my Jo. Nonna brought a Melmac bowl heaped
with hills of chocolate—her garden in early spring.
Like the Old Country, sighed Mrs. Delhomey,
blessing Nonna’s paradise with her whistling exhale.
Once, I’d thought the Old Country was one country
spread behind a golden gate, as in a fairy tale.
By then, I knew the world was cut into nations,
stained different colors on the classroom globe--
but not that Nonna had called Margaret from the kitchen
phone. I’d hoped that Nonna would offer to make up
the soft green couch for this old lady spooning
ice cream past her bare gums, in perfect pleasure.
But Nonna took away the emptied bowl, placed
gentle fingers on the blue robe. She walked her friend
back through a sky thick with blinking stars,
delivering her to the dark realm of Margaret.
Decades gone. Nonna spoke of Mrs. Delhomey:
I loved her like she was my own mother.
I know, I said, through Nonna’s fading kitchen--
the percolator clock above her sink pulsing
a pure red light into the shadows, holding
that present until it too became memory.
Angele Ellis's poetry appeared on a theater marquee after she won Pittsburgh Filmmakers' G-20 Haiku Contest. She is author of Arab on Radar (Six Gallery), whose poems about family and heritage earned an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Spared (A Main Street Rag Editor's Choice Chapbook), and Under the Kaufmann's Clock (Six Gallery), a fiction/poetry hybrid inspired by Ellis's adopted city of Pittsburgh, with photographs by Rebecca Clever.