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Saturday, February 26, 2011


by Linda Lerner

they  clutch huge shovels walking down
I’d say  my block  but it is theirs,
men who decades ago moved into this country
not its language, staked down their Italian souls
overwriting deeds to their property
with herbs, enormous sunflowers
every variety of bloom space left  they keep planting

people pass admiring . . . can I have . . .
a smile, a nod gives permission
to pull up a bunch of thyme or rosemary
this garden that corners Court & Carroll streets
outside their clubroom  this block over which
the bandiera d’Italia  flies freely from rooftops
what’s left of their neighborhood before
I and those like me came

they walk three abreast  small dark clothed
fluttering of wives seen now & then . . .
only one nods, tips his hat slightly  when I pass . . .
the men keep walking  determined

the snow keeps falling
layers of ice coat the tops of hedges
the walkways  men’s souls;
Egypt floats off  peoples’ tongues as they pass
the  men look at each other   understand
what lies outside language

what my Russian-born father would have
understood   why they  crack down so hard
on the ice   fly the old country's flag from their homes
keep shoveling  securing what’s theirs
by deed  by work  by what cannot be tallied,
men who live in the language of each others' countries
    Italy   Russia   Egypt
same war  fought  same victory to be won

Linda Lerner's Something is Burning In Brooklyn was published by Iniquity Press in 2009. Her next collection will be published by New York Quarterly Press.