PoetryIssue 10 | September 2010

Italian Cuisine

by Paul Hostovsky

I’m visiting my half-sister Olga
in Bologna. She’s 45 and married
to an Italian. I’m 15, American, and the only
Italian word I know besides spaghetti

is baloney. My family
history reads like one of those libretti
where everyone is falling in love and jumping
out of windows. Alleluia. Allioop!

My nephew Dario, 4 years older than me (go
figure), takes me to a party on the Via Faenza
where everyone is smoking and eating
pot brownies. They take turns

practicing their English on the American.
I feel famous, then exploited.
Someone is telling a long hilarious joke
in Italian. All of my interpreters

are cracking up and rolling on the floor,
mute with laughter. I smile helplessly,
sweep the floor with my eyes for the dropped
English. It evaporates like water in a pot

of giddy spaghetti. The brownies kick in.
I float to the window, look out at the porticos leapfrogging
to infinity through the streets of Bologna.
I close my eyes and see:

Olga in her kitchen, holding a rolling pin;
my father in Prague, holding a cigarette
like a leaky pen, pointing it up
at a portrait of Jan Masaryk who

jumped (go figure) out a window.
I see Wendy Lazzoni back in Jersey
at the end of a long tunnel in space, smiling…
I can see the gap between her teeth perfectly,

I can even see the gap between the buttons
of her blouse, which was always space enough—
when Dario taps my scapula and we lapse
into English. Back at Olga’s

it’s rigatoni for dinner—
little fluted tunnels floating
in a white wine sauce. I’m still
stoned. I hold one up

to my left eye while closing
my right: Olga floats into focus
glaring like the Inquisition at Dario
who’s holding a rigatoni telescope

of his own, peering through it across
the dinner table at me, the American
Galileo. “Nevertheless,
it moves,” I say to him. He explodes

into exorbitant laughter.

About the author

Paul Hostovsky’s poems have won a Pushcart Prize, and the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review. He has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. His most recent book of poems is Dear Truth (2009, Main Street Rag). Visit him here.

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