A final poem for papa

fiori da morti: a final poem for papa 

papa

 

Papa

who worked with your brother 50 years 

at that Sunoco station in South Philly

holding court to a group of retired men who

called you Teenaxe 

 

Papa

who gave me change to buy comic books 

from the old man at the corner newsstand

who called me Tony, which was your name

 

Papa

who gave me my first job wiping windshields

I could barely reach on my tippy-toes

sometimes you held me up or I stood on a wooden box 

to reach the glass

 

Papa

who decided I was gonna be a priest

bragging to all your friends when I became an altar boy

prouder still when your brother nicknamed me

“the little father”

 

Papa

who won me a pink elephant at the 

Steel Pier in Atlantic City

you called him “Lucky”

I hugged him all the way home

afraid he might disappear

 

Papa

who was never lucky at anything

especially politics

wanting to be more than a neighborhood committeeman

but knocked down every time you tried

 

Papa

who watched helplessly as I divorced your world

going to anti-war rallies

growing my hair, listening to rock music

even tasting a boy’s lips on mine

I became the enemy you ranted about every night

sitting at the dinner table watching the news

 

Papa

who cursed me

when I came out at Temple University

my picture on the front page of the student paper

my face on your TV

your worst nightmare

 

Papa

who asked me to change my name

so I wouldn’t embarrass la famiglia

 

Papa

who threw me out of the house when I was 19

 

Papa 

who screamed, “You’re not my son”

 

Papa

who cried when I yelled back, “I don’t wanna be your son”

 

Papa

you’re gone now

& all those angry words still haunt me

we never took them back  

 

© 2000 by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, originally published in Avanti Popolo: Italian writers sail beyond Columbus, AK Press, 2008 and Philadelphia Poets, Volume 9, Number 1