November 1998

Daniela Gioseffi

Daniela Gioseffi American Book Award winner Daniela Gioseffi is the author of ten books of poetry and prose: the latest, Word Wounds & Water Flowers. She's won two poetry awards from the New York State Council for the Arts, a fiction award from PEN, and taught and read internationally, publishing widely in literary magazines. She is the editor of Wise Women's Web, and president of the non-profit Skylands Writers & Artists Asso. Inc.
Orta Nova, Provincia de Pulia    Read Along with the Author

"Land of bright sun and colors,"
they call you in Italia!
Near Bari and Brindisi from where the ferry
has travelled the Adriatico,
to and fro to Greece for so many centuries.
Orta Nova, city of my dead father's birth.
How strange to view you, piccolo villaggio,
with lucky Lady Bugs landed on my shirt.

They close the Municipio, after showing me your birth
certificate, "Donato Gioseffi, born 1905,"
scrawled in ink, on browning paper—when I tell them
I'm an American Book Award winning author,
and poetessa, the first American of the family
to return to my father's home, I'm suddenly "royalty!"
They take me in their best town car
to the archeological dig near the edge of the city.
There the Kingdom of Herdonia unearthed with its brick road
leading to Rome, as all roads did and still do,
back to antiquity's glory! Lady Bugs rest on me at the dig
of stone artifacts the Belgian professor shows me. I buy his book,
"The Kingdom of Herdonia; Older Than Thebes."

Ah, Padre Mio, long dead, the taunts you took as a lame,
thin, diminutive, immigrant "guinea" who spoke no English
in his fifth grade class
from brash American's with an infant country!
You never returned to your ancient land where now the natives,
simpatici pisani, wine and dine me in their best
ristorante. I insist on paying the bill. They give me jars
of funghi and pimento preserved in olive oil—their prize
produce to take home with me. They nod knowingly,
when in talking of you, I must leave the table to weep—
alone in the rest room, looking into the mirror
at the eyes you gave me, the hands so like yours
that turn the brass faucet
and splash the cold water of reality over my face.

For an instant, in this foreign place, I have met you again,
ghost from the grave, and have understood better, your labors,
your struggle, your pride, your humility and simplicity,
the peasantry from which you came to cross the wide
sea, to make me an American poet of New York City.

Which is truly my home?
—this piccolo villaggio near Bari, town of Europe's oldest university,
the province where St. Nicholas Turkish bones are buried,
in hammered-gold and enameled reliquary,
the province of lime stone caves full of paintings older than those of Lescaux,
this white town of the Gargano, unspoiled by touristi, this hidden land of color
sunlight and beauty. This home where you would have been happier
and better understood than in the tenements of Newark which tortured your youth.

This land of sunlight, blue sky, pink and white flowers, white stucco houses,
and poverty, mezzogiorno, this warmth you left to make me
a poet from cold New York City—international and cruel place,
mixed of every race, so that I
am more cosmopolitan
than these, your villagers, or you
could ever dream of being. This strange travel
into the irony of one generation
gone forever paving the way
into a New World from the Old.



Daniela Gioseffi: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review