May 13, 2018

A Poem For Mother's Day

Photo courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago
In loving memory of my mother I'm posting November 2, a moving poem by the great Neapolitan poet Salvatore Di Giacomo.* The accompanying photo of Charity by Francesco de Mura (1696-1782) was part of a series of Allegories of the Virtues commissioned by Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy. Charity, representing maternal love, is depicted as a nursing mother caring for three children. In the foreground is a pelican feeding her young with her own blood.

November 2

When my mother died, I was too stunned
to grieve; at the foot of the bed,
I stared, unseeing, at the drab clad body;
blinding, blunting all living memories.

No, I did not cry, no wail, not a tear,
I imagined her asleep, a halo
of a mother about that worn grey face;
waiting for me to come home, she dozed.

A year now that she is deep in her grave,
in my dreams she appears, her love unslaked,
vanishing, she strands me in a desert.

Suddenly my heart overflows, cascades
with tears, laving these dear remembered walls,
I choke up, tears, tears, are drowning my poem. 

2 de Nuvembre
I’ nun saccio pecché, quanno murette
màmmema bella e, comm’ a nu stunato,
sulo, a tenerla mente io rummanette,
appede de lu lietto addenucchiato;

tanno, io nun saccio pecché, nun chiagnette,
guardannola accussì, zitto, ncantato,
comm’ a na vota ch’ essa s’ addurmette,
mentr’ io vicino lle steva assettato…

Mo ca fa n’ anno ca ii’ aggio perduta,
mo, mo ca nzuonno me sta cumparenno,
mo la necessità nn’ aggio sentuta…

E mo mme vene a chiàgnere, e chiagnenno
sceto sti mmura ca ll’ hanno saputa,
nfonno sti ccarte addó stongo screvenno…

(*) Reprinted from The Naples of Salvatore Di Giacomo: Poems and a Play, translated by Frank J. Palescandolo, Forum Italicum, Inc., 2000, page 65