I haven’t seen my children in months.
A serrated knife saws through the hearts of small loaves,
crumbs falling beside the splayed-open Italian bread
whose fresh wheat is pocked with labyrinth of holes—air
will cushion a mosiac of imported coldcuts. They layer
in overlapping rows on white deli paper creased closed
meticulously at Trinacria, a Baltimore grocery. I unfold,
rich smells wrapped inside the black-crayoned paper,
release. [Unchanged, all the aromas as a child in that deli,
the Sicilian chatter. Dad’s discerning eye, always pensive.
Seemed he could see beyond the store to Palermo.
At this moment, I see father and mother in Sicily too,
not fettered to their graves.] My children, mesmerized
hungry eyes focused, their shiny pupils dark as olives.
We sit on a picnic bench by a heavy oak table under
maple trees at a rest stop on the way home to Tennessee.
They study me as I layer Genoa salami with its mottled
wine-colored flesh, and fold large rounds of mortadella,
its sheered pistachios embedded in pale incarnadine meat.
Capicolla, rimmed with the same orange-red, shimmers
—the wet ham capping the muffoletta. Smells linger,
intensify with thin pieces of Auricchio provolone
and sweet roasted, but vinegar’d, red peppers. On the side,
tomatoes; cracked green olives and shriveled black ones
laced with red pepper flakes. Unity. A moment of grace.
…Crumbs shingle-off between hungry hands.
We dissolve in reflections, moist glimmers, salt.
John C. Mannone has poems accepted in North Dakota Quarterly, the 2020 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, Foreign Literary Review, Le Menteur, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, and others. He won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest in poetry (2020). He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A retired physics professor, Mannone lives near Knoxville, Tennessee.