edition #1 - from Zohie


A Grandmother.

The night my Nonna died
I spent reading Dante,
pondering the first three circles of hell,
sitting in an armchair in the adjoining room
wrapped in the stillness of deaths prelude—
‘heaven and hell exist on earth’ I concluded,
and the choice is ours—
naive thoughts of a twenty-four year old woman,
only beginning to sift through these concepts,
of life, and death, and of existence.

That night was the first,
and only time,
I shared a joint with my father
giggling in the courtyard
wearing my Nonna’a cardigan.
I was cold in the midnight air,
despite the date reading 8th December 2010.

Stories surfaced that night.
A starched collar that bled my grandfathers neck,
how she came to own this illustrious fur coat—
the details of which, will remain enclosed in privacy
just as her bones lay wrapped in respect,
the undercurrent, the lesson, was clear—
always maintain ones personal integrity,
always be the driver of your own car.

Her false teeth had fallen from her gums
a veil of illusion had dropped—
Aunty Carmen told me it was time to say goodbye,
so I held my Nonna’s hand, and told her I loved her.
The false teeth rattled inside her jaw,
Aunty Josephine decided they must be removed
and, as the nurse reached her finger inside
Nonna clenched down
she was still here
with the same undercurrent,
maintaining her personal integrity.

I remember crying in the shower,
she chose to leave without me present,
without the fuss—
so like her.
I was overcome with sensation,
how could this small, frail woman,
grow to be a giant once she passed over?

Only in the presence of death
can we appreciate how big life is,
the seeds we plant in our lifetime
are harvested,
the moment we step over—

Little girls love wearing their mothers clothes,

the long sleeves drape over their fingertips

outlining the wings they have, 

to grow into—

I wore that cardigan for weeks after,

a prelude of my style yet to come.

In her casket, rosary beads spiralled around her wrist
her body shrouded by this infamous coat,
I took note.

I wrapped some rosaries around my own wrist,
simple, and wooden— a keepsake
as part of my very 'Italian style’ outfit of mourning
I wore to your funeral.
Emulating memories of you,
echos from childhood,
marks of respect.

These beads were lost soon after—
one of the many sentimental possessions
that have somehow left me
with a grief,
at my inability to care for meaning.

I’ve called the lost parts of myself to return home,
as part of my healing journey.
I found these beads in a drawer the other day—
Nine years have passed,
and they came home, to me.

Relief transforms grief as I place them on my altar,
Next to my mala,
For I pray with those now,
Echos of the sentiment,
I inherited from you—

Zohie Castellano