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October 2013, vol 8, no 3

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Adelaide Shaw

Lucia's Memories

Nonna's House

A small house in the hills. Rough gray stone. A vegetable patch in the back. A few orange trees on the side. Nonno is away again, somewhere in the hills, hauling his wagon of water barrels to different villages. He had his mastiff for company and protection against bandits. Nonna has Lucia. She is 10 years old.

shining on her beads
she counts off the prayers

Her chores are to gather kindling, feed the chickens, sweep the floor, get milk from the goat boy.

bells in the wind
kids follow their dams
over rocks

spring blossoms
a clean straw mattress
free from bugs

In the afternoon she studies her catechism. Recites it for Nonna.

First Communion
after a cleansing rain
the festive table

The visits end. She is leaving. It is February 1918.

sea and clouds
between sleep and waking
a life imagined

The Voyage

Steerage, the lowest area for passengers. Men on one side. Women and children on the other. She is crossing with her mother, two younger brothers and a baby sister. The New World waiting. Her father, an older brother and two older sisters waiting. She is 13.

A narrow iron framed bunk bed, one of a hundred in a long room. Two swinging lanterns overhead. A thin mattress, a skimpy blanket and life preserver on every bunk.

Life on board consists of long lines for food, for the toilet, for washing. Stale, smelly air below; clean, brisk and cold air on deck. Now and then a treat.

a fresh orange
three sections for herself
to slowly savor
each bite a memory
of Nonna's tree

On the third day out an alarm. Life jackets put on. The waiting on deck, perhaps to all die. The engine stilled. U-boats. Torpedoes. New words. New fears.

Every day, always the rocking and swaying, always the confinement, the restlessness, the wish to run across the hills again.

sea spray on the wind
a slow walk around deck
and back
the ache in her legs
moves to her heart

After 16 days the flat horizon changes shape. Land. An island, a statue high on a pedestal holding a torch. She stands on deck in falling snow. The first she has ever seen.

fragile and light
flakes on her open hand
quickly melt;
fragile and light all her dreams
shadowed in the dawn

Note: Nonno: Grandfather, Nonna: Grandmother