The sting of namelessness
the blade of silence eviscerating memory
that is how shame is interred deep
into sinew and bone.
For my ancestors, muteness was chosen
a precious tool wielded
by the men and women
of the Mezzogiorno,
the southern Italians of La Miseria.
Don’t tell, the padrone will beat you.
Don’t tell, the priests will condemn your soul.
Don’t tell, the police will jail your overworked limbs.
Their resoluteness atrophied
behind the iron bars of tradition
their speechless tongues wagged
aimlessly in their closed
the uncensored secrets
of their disowned autobiographies
only in dimly lit corners
for their throats still recalled
the hash boot-heel
of unbridled authority.
If the dishonored fail to speak
how can they conjure
themselves—or their children—into being?
I am the great-granddaughter
of the children of Omerta
a woman who longs to unleash their outrage,
free the howl
that echoes in their hungry bellies
that rattles through my own DNA.
I want to
conquer their demons—and mine
I want to
eradicate the evil that annihilates
everything they knew to be true
everything I know to be true as well.
I listen, pray, ask for guidance
but my ancestors remain mute.
I want to pry open the O in omerta
carve an escape hatch
carry them safely through the granite portal
away from their tomb of silence
I want to show them
a different kind of world
a world in which they find the courage
to coax their long-hushed tongues to speak
a world in which their hearts can soar
full-throttle toward the wide, waiting wail of liberation.
a world in which they crack the ancient code of preservation
reclaim the defiant language of their souls—at long, long last
a world in which they can tell, tell, tell
the truth of their lives—of our lives—
the lives of each and every one of us
too long silenced.