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Wednesday, July 24, 2013


by Maria Lisella

Skittles-covered Bicycle. Image source: Foodbeast.

My stepson spent
the afternoon in detention
for lying to a nun.

I told them my name means
pheasants in Italian,
but no one believed me.

Half white, half Puerto Rican,
Italian last name, nappy hair,
said otherwise.

At the perfect age of 10,
my stepson and I
had a date one afternoon.

Determined to teach him to fly,
forget nuns, divorced parents,
over-protective mother,

or, just ride a bike.
A two-wheeler, banana seat,
shiny, chrome, bells, streamers.

He’d run alongside it
throw one leg far and wide
in time to find the pedal

on the other side.
I clutched the back of the seat
sent him off as far as I could.

Like my father did for me,
knowing spills and harm
would follow.

Years later,
a knot in my heart,
his dusty, tear-smeared face

lips quivering, telling me
of a quick ride to Pelham Bay
where he was chased down

by taunts of "You don’t belong here."
            I tried to tell them my name
            but no one listened.

I think of all I don’t know
about courage ­– how to build it,
pass it on, when to fight, to flee,

and when to leave your bike
behind, save your life,
find your way home.

Maria Lisella's Pushcart Poetry Prize-nominated work appears in Amore on Hope Street and Two Naked Feet as well as a number of journals such as Feile Festa, LIPS, Paterson Literary Review, Skidrow Penthouse and online at and First Literary Review East. Her forthcoming collection, Thieves in the Family, will be published by New York Quarterly Books in 2014. She is a charter member of the online poetry circle, Brevitas and co-curates the Italian American Writers Association literary readings at Cornelia St. Cafe and Sidewalk Cafe in NYC.