You sailed four times before you could
give up your native town for good
and the stone house that had withstood
floods and the ruinous quake.
Grandfather, whom I never knew,
dead when your son was only two,
how is it that I think of you
as he lies slowly dying?
Forgive me if I seem to rail
because the nurse’s efforts fail,
and still my father cannot sail
after your distant wake.
Why do I count those chestnut trees
and see the shelves of cellared cheese,
while younger children climb your knees,
and the infant boy is trying?
You summoned the small ones: “caro! . . . cara!”
in Vermont and Cervinara
and they obeyed. To me, you are a
hero, tall and burly,
in a portrait of uncertain date.
I see my father hesitate.
Oh, do not let him stay too late
in the world you left too early.