Did my grandmother know
The reason they called America the promised land?
When she came to this land of opportunity
As a mail order bride did she think
She would be partaking in white privilege?
That the history of plantations and reservations
That made the fat of the land could trump
all the anti-Italian comments
she’d get from second generation Irish
Getting their chance to dish it out
As once they had taken it?
I sincerely doubt it
I don’t think they sold it that way
Just like today Apple doesn’t brag
“Laptops made by authentic Chinese Slave Labor!”
But here she was
In the land of the free & the home of the slave
Just in time for the great depression
And that mythic time of working class togetherness
85 years later, at least one of her grandchildren
believes it might be better back in Italia
not cursing her for ever leaving
still loving much about American culture
and being a product of it, but feeling cut off
not just from Napoli but from the Eritrean blood
clearly evident in our nose and build
despite it being airbrushed from the family tree
that only goes as low as the trunk. White/European.
One of her daughters married a black man named Ting
And they called her a black sheep.
I dream of the Mediterranean. If the Roman Empire
Ever had a soul, it was she. No mere middle passage
But straddling continents as if they could be equal
Bubbling beneath the official imperial reality
I crave that blues cruise more than Crete.
On maps, at least, is seems more cozy than
The Pacific or even the Atlantic, and warmer
And all this before a concept of Europe
But Italy was never as close to Norway or England
As it was to Egypt or Tunisia
Especially when Alps were much harder to cross
Than the sea was….
And I think of Hannibal and his elephants
Deep within our blood, not some imperialist
Aenied screwing over Dido
And that, dear judge, is why I say “other”
When you ask me about my people
Or better leave it blank, given your options
But my blue eyes betray me.
I do not entirely hate Europe.
It seems less Eurocentric today than the USA
But every time I see a map with Europe on top
I turn it around so South Africa is
And we haven’t even gotten into Asia yet
(unless of course you notice
Europe is just part of Asia in drag
Whatever that means)
And I wonder how long I could live near
Vesuvius or Carthage only speaking English.