Land of My Father's War

Adopted, Relinquished Country


I was a child

taken to the Old World,

to a country my father

met in war. Loved and left.

Occupied again.


Country aflutter with gestures,

fluted with vowels.

One of medieval pageants,

bronze horses, colored glass,

Rooftop theater,

cheesecloth robes,

Pinocchio masks.

Our Italian primer:

Oggi. Today.


Place a child might thrive.


We returned to our native land and

I left the bosom of the family

for the straight edge of first grade.


Desks in rows and Dick & Jane.

Foreigner, a classmate hissed.


Dad tried to keep

old words afloat. Piccolina,



We don’t need that here, I replied.


Oggi, the lost language soothes

and rankles. I find tomorrow,

domani, in cognates. But

what of yesterday?

Ah, ieri, all ephemera,


© 2017 Phyllis Meshulam